last posts

What is the 2026 World Cup schedule? When and where are the games? How will it work?



 It has been confirmed that the 2026 World Cup will see 104 games played, up from the original 80, as 12 groups of four teams in each will be the format.

It has also been confirmed that the final will be played at MetLife Stadium in New York New Jersey with the full game schedule released as the opener will be in Mexico City at the iconic Azteca Stadium.

Following the FIFA Council meeting ahead of the 73rd FIFA Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, it was agreed that the number of games for the 2026 World Cup would increase and the format would change from the previous format of 16 groups of three teams.


The top two teams from each group will go through, with the eight best third-place teams also advancing to the Round of 32.


What is the 2026 World Cup schedule?

The full schedule for the 2026 World Cup can be seen in the graphic below and here are some noticeable takeaways:

- The USMNT will play their group stage games in LA, Seattle and then LA again.

- The opening game of the tournament will see Mexico play their opening group stage game on June 11 at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium

- Canada will play their opening group game in Toronto

- There will be a last 16 game in Philadelphia on July 4th, 2026 which is the 250th anniversary of Independence Day

World Cup 2026 schedule

Where will the 2026 World Cup take place?

The 2026 World Cup will take place in three North American countries: the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This will be the first time that the tournament is hosted by three different nations and it will be the very first time that the event will be contested in Canada. There will be a total of 16 venues used as host cities for the 2026 World Cup. The U.S. will have 11, Canada will have 2, and Mexico will have 3.

Additionally, the 2026 World Cup will debut an expanded format featuring 48 teams--as opposed to 32--split into 12 groups of 4.


2026 World Cup host cities

USA (11)

Atlanta – Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Boston – Gillette Stadium
Dallas – AT&T Stadium
Houston – NRG Stadium
Kansas City – Arrowhead Stadium
Los Angeles – SoFi Stadium
Miami – Hard Rock Stadium
New York/New Jersey – MetLife Stadium
Philadelphia – Lincoln Financial Field
San Francisco – Levi’s Stadium
Seattle – Lumen Field

Canada (2)

Toronto – BMO Field
Vancouver – BC Place

Mexico (3)

Guadalajara – Estadio Akron
Mexico City – Estadio Azteca
Monterrey – Estadio BBVA


When is the 2026 World Cup?

The 2026 World Cup is scheduled to take place from June 8 through July 3.


How to watch the 2026 World Cup:

*All times are listed as ET


  • When: June 8 through July 3, 2026

  • Location: USA, Canada, Mexico

  • TV channel in English: Fox
  • The Race for the Final

    “Lauren and I got asked this question quite a bit the week after we won — what was the magic formula?” Revman said.

    The formula, as the New York/New Jersey leaders described it, was leveraging the worldwide brand recognition that comes from the area’s landmarks whether it be Central Park, the Statue of Liberty or the region’s history in hosting previous major soccer matches. MetLife Stadium hosted the 2012 Copa Centario final and its predecessor, Giants Stadium, was the site for many 1994 World Cup matches (including a semifinal and third-place match) plus the opening U.S. women’s national team match in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

    “They want to grow the game and if you want to grow the game, there’s no better place than this region to grow anything,” Revman said.

    The New York/New Jersey group’s strategy was also different, with some of its meetings being quite private; if it heard that Infantino would be in the area for a separate event, such as the United Nations General Assembly, it would take time to find a spot in his schedule so that he could meet for a private dinner with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and New York City Mayor Eric Adams. When Infantino was in Dallas as Jerry Jones’ guest for a Cowboys game and his attendance was splashed on the big screen at AT&T Stadium, driving lots of social media chatter, it was less public but no less notable that he was the following week at MetLife Stadium for a Jets game.

    “Our style was different than some of the other host cities,” added LaRusso. But no matter the type of meeting or setting, “We were always in bid mode in every meeting.”

    “We were very clear that we know what it takes to put on a successful event and the efficiency and the experience that we have in this region put on mega events,” Revman said. “It’s not our first rodeo, but we did not take that for granted. We shared that with FIFA. I think at the end of the day, we just kept driving home that we know how to do great big things in this region.”

    Even through any discussion, public and private, there was debate on which city was “the favorite.” Then there’s that story — you know, the one in The Sun published on January 17 announcing Dallas as FIFA’s pick to host the final. It was a story that caused angst among those in Dallas and New York/New Jersey’s bid teams — who happened to be in Washington for a round of meetings with federal officials as the story broke, sitting in the same room together with other host city representatives.

    “It was very awkward,” Paul said. While there were plenty of stories with theories on who would host the final before that day, “for some reason, this one caught legs — maybe because we had been waiting for a match schedule for so long, that (people) kind of thought it was real. … when that came out, it ended up being me contacting a lot of people, letting them know that this is not real. I hope it is real, but it is not real.”

    So many people reached out to the two organizations that Paul and LaRusso went to FIFA and asked the organization to issue a statement saying no decision had been made “because it was causing so many problems with (Dallas’) stakeholders and our stakeholders,” LaRusso said. “Bruce and I were getting text messages from friends and family (saying) ‘I’m so sorry. I know you guys worked so hard.’ We actually had to send a correspondence like to almost 100 people at one point, just to say, ‘Don’t lose hope. We are still in this. We know you saw the reports. Let’s just keep marching on.’ I think they thought we were crazy. I think they thought, ‘These poor people, bless their hearts.’”

    It was some of those same people who got to celebrate in New York and New Jersey less than a month later. And at the same time, in part because of The Sun’s story, the narrative in Dallas changed on announcement day.

    “That made the announcement and the hype around it a little rougher because now you have all of these expectations on you,” Paul said. “Now, don’t get me wrong — that also means global exposure and you’re in the conversation and people are talking about you. That’s a big win in itself. But it also left us to answer the question at the end of the day (that) we had the whole world anticipating this was Dallas. And now it’s New York/New Jersey was the decision. So why?”

    That was then. A few weeks later, Paul was able to focus beyond the final.

    “Our goal now is to host the best World Cup matches that we can to embrace this opportunity for our community and our residents and leave a lasting legacy,” she said. “If we’re successful in those efforts, this will be the largest sporting event and maybe largest event that the DFW area has ever seen.”

    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, left, and FC Dallas president Dan Hunt, right, shake hands after the match schedule was revealed for soccer's FIFA World Cup 2026 during an even at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, left, and FC Dallas president Dan Hunt, right, shake hands after the match schedule was revealed for the 2026 FIFA World Cup 2026. AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys, will host nine matches, the most of any city in North America, including a semifinal. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

    Clarity Going Forward

    “Knowledge is power,” Philadelphia 2026 Host City Executive Meg Kane said. “From that perspective, the schedule allows us to stop operating from a what if either to this is it and what’s the ebb and flow going to be like.”

    The planning throughout the Northeast corridor of Boston, New York City and Philadelphia also includes now the idea of having matches around the Fourth of July and Semiquincentennial that are already being planned — while Philadelphia got a Round of 16 match on that day.

    “What a win to get the July 4 match,” Kane said. “It’s going to be an amazing day for the city, such a global stage — and I think the mix of the largest sporting event of the world and the heritage of the United States being celebrated is going to be really cool.”

    That day will be the final match for Philadelphia in the World Cup, with the city two weeks later hosting Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. While that may not be a coincidence, having six matches overall “paces nicely in kind of having two very full weeks of soccer, which is awesome,” Kane said.

    On the opposite end of the country, the FIFA West Region headquarters will be in San Jose, an important win for San Jose Sports Authority Executive Director John Poch. Levi’s Stadium, months after hosting Super Bowl LX, will have five group stage games and a round of 32 match.

    “All credit and respect to Al Guido,” said Poch, referring to team president of the San Francisco 49ers and chairman and chief executive officer of Elevate Sports Ventures. “He was very clear from the bid process six years ago when this all started: We want elimination games. Our stadium and our community deserve it. We hosted the 1994 World Cup. We hosted the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. We hosted games for the 1984 Olympic Games. We have the community that’s begging for international soccer. Six games are terrific.”

    One of the cities getting eight games is Atlanta — highlighted by the July 15 semifinal in addition to knockout games in the round of 32 and round of 16. The eight matches “is really exciting for us, a great way to cap the process of working as a community to put ourselves in the best position to host the most matches possible,” said Dan Corso, president of the Atlanta Sports Council.

    Atlanta’s hope before the announcement was seven or eight matches plus a semifinal, so the match assignments, in Corso’s view, is a validation of what the region has done with growing Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United into a global brand and becoming home for U.S. Soccer’s new national training center.

    “(FIFA) certainly recognize that,” Corso said. “Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the quality of that stadium and the people that run that stadium, it’s a professional building with professional people. Once you go outside those doors, you’re surrounded by amenities for fan events, restaurants and public transportation right in the middle of that campus. That infrastructure for hosting combined with Coca Cola’s headquarters being steps away from that campus, I think was just a great mix for us and a great part of our success.”

    Public Transportation a Key

    The public transportation will be a major talking point for all the cities in the next two years. While the dates of matches have been released, more than one person interviewed for this story pointed out the times of the matches have not been set. Particularly in the Northeast grouping with Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Toronto all within 600 miles of each other, regional transportation networks such as New Jersey Transit, SEPTA in Philadelphia and more are talking like perhaps never before.

    “We made our teams very well aware that, even if you’re an agency in New York or New Jersey, you need to know what’s going on in Philadelphia. You need to know what’s going on in Boston,” LaRusso said. “You have to think outside your bubble because it’ll only help us better plan.”

    “Looking at that corridor is going to be really important to understand the flow of fans moving in and out of the cities,” said Kane, who added “we view Philadelphia as being almost an auxiliary site for the final. We are planning to be fully activated, we welcome people to stay here and be part of the experience and with our proximity to South Jersey, we’ll be in close touch with them on a variety of things.”

    Transportation for the cities also includes preparing for the influx of international fans — not just those who are staying in the U.S. for the duration of their stay but also those who may want to go between each of the three countries. Infantino met in early May with a series of lawmakers in Washington including House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

    FIFA said one of the topics of meetings was “issues related to transportation, safety and security, visas and immigration.” As detailed recently by The Athletic, the 2026 World Cup is in under 800 days and “the wait times for U.S. visa interviews in two Mexican cities are already in excess of 800 days, while it is 685 days in the Colombian capital of Bogota.”

    “We want people to land in San Jose,” Poch said. “Our biggest thing is to focus on international travelers that want to follow their clubs. You land in San Jose because it’s a five-minute Uber to downtown. So that’s the biggest thing — No. 1 — is get people to land in San Jose because then you have all your hotels.”

    Time to Balance the Budgets

    The costs involved for the cities will also be a major storyline over the next two years because of the World Cup’s double expansion — first to 48 teams and then, after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was completed, a change in the group stage format that expanded the number of matches to 104 from the previously scheduled 80. Every U.S. city will host at least six matches; along with Dallas’ nine, four cities will host eight matches (Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami and New York/New Jersey).

    “It’s going to be a core focus this year for sure,” said Holland in Kansas City, which will host six matches. “Now that we know the number of matches and the hospitality and match ticket parts of the programs, we’re going to market for sponsorships.”

    Sponsorship comes in the way of host city packages, which FIFA is allowing individual hosts to sell for the first time. Each city will be able to sell 10 packages that include local IP rights and tickets to games. A business can sponsor a maximum of two cities — and a city cannot sign a sponsor that conflicts with FIFA’s list of global sponsors.

    What each city will be able to charge depends on market demographics and the economy. Being the New York market alone is attractive along with hosting the final, Revman is optimistic but not overconfident on the revenue possibilities.

    “You have a sense of what you feel the value proposition is and then the marketplace tells you what the value is,” he said. “We know it’s a great story to be able to say that we will have the biggest game on the biggest platform in 2026 and that’s a mic drop. At the end of the day, it’s about business. The marketplace would tell us whether we’re on line or not.”

    The same can be said in Seattle, which can market having a U.S. national team match among its four group-stage games along with matches in the Round of 32 and Round of 16.

    “The U.S. match is a definite enhancement but for us, there’s so much passion in this region for soccer. That’s just the icing on the cake,” Knox said. “It’s not a game-changer for us from a sales and revenue perspective but it is a revenue enhancement.”

    In Dallas, the costs involved with one extra match are more than you would think and involves a bit of a reset on the sponsorship side: “We have to go back and put together what type of packages and assets we may have as well as what is the overall evaluation of those because it was based on more eight matches rather than nine,” Paul said. “It changes up some things.”

    Lumen Field is shown during an NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals in Seattle. The U.S. men’s national soccer team will play a 2026 FIFA World Cup group-stage match at Lumen Field on June 19. (AP Photo/Ben VanHouten, File)

    Ticket Distribution a Key

    Among the more valuable pieces of a package will be match tickets. A previously released version of the host city contract says FIFA will allow the host city committee to buy, ahead of the public, as much as 1.5 percent of tickets per hosted match “to assist fundraising efforts and included as part of a host city supporter package.” FIFA also provides host cities with 175 to 250 complimentary VIP tickets at each match they host and a small number of tickets to matches in other cities.

    While many of the U.S. host cities have been a bit reticent in giving away financial details, Vancouver and Toronto have been more open to what types of support the cities will get because Canadian versus U.S. politics it is not an apples-to-apples situation.

    As much as $196 million Canadian ($142 million U.S.) has been earmarked for upgrades to BC Place in Vancouver and the estimated cost of staging matches has doubled to $581 million Canadian ($422 million U.S.) for its seven matches. British Columbia Minister of Tourism Lana Popham said the event will draw about 350,000 fans to the province and generate more than $1 billion Canadian ($727 million U.S.) in the five years following the tournament.

    “It was interesting because obviously we originally said no, but there’s been more opportunities that have been brought to us. FIFA has added in more revenue-generating opportunities for the province,” she said.

    The federal government will contribute $116.66 million Canadian to Vancouver and $104.34 million Canadian to Toronto, which will host six matches including Canada’s first Men’s World Cup match ever. Toronto’s costs include enlarging BMO Field, which currently has a capacity of 30,991 and needs to be expanded to 45,000 for the World Cup through temporary seating.

    While there is clarity in planning for 2026, what remains anything but clear is FIFA’s plans for the 2025 Club World Cup. The first edition of the expanded 32-team tournament will be from June 15 to July 13, 2025, in the United States and will overlap the Concacaf Gold Cup, which will be in the U.S. from June 14 through July 6. The tournament lineup includes Champions League finalists Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund plus Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

    FIFA has not made any announcements to date about what cities will host matches in the Club World Cup; while World Cup host cities will be used for the Club World Cup, whether those same stadiums will be used is, like almost everything else in the tournament, unknown. FIFA has also been warned of legal action from players and national leagues if it does not backtrack on adding new and bigger competitions such as the Club World Cup, according to a letter sent by global players union FIFPRO and the World Leagues Association.

    There also is a potential developing situation at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium. To help finance the construction of the stadium in the 1960s, Mexican businessman Emilio Azcárraga Milmo sold boxes to private investors for 115,000 pesos, or about $9,000 at the time, giving the owners rights to use them for 99 years.

    Roberto Ruano spokesman of an association of 134 box owners, expects FIFA to respect the deal that he says included the 1970 and 1986 World Cups that Mexico hosted. The 83,000-seat stadium will host five games during the 2026 World Cup, including the opening match.

    “We’ve already paid for the right to be there when we purchased the title and there can be no restrictions for us,” says Ruano. “We have a title to support us. It’s not up for debate.”

    The current asking price for a 65-square-foot box at Azteca ranges from 15 million to 25 million pesos ($900,000 to $1.5 million U.S.). Asked for comment, “specific details on fan access and other match information will be announced in due course,” FIFA told The Associated Press.

    A general overall interior view of the Hard Rock Stadium as the New England Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins during an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The 2026 World Cup final will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on July 19. FIFA made the announcement Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, at a Miami television studio, allocating the opener of the 39-day tournament to Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca on June 11. Quarterfinals will be at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on July 9, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., the following day and at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on July 11. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)
    Hard Rock Stadium will host eight matches during the 2026 FIFA World Cup, including the third-place match. Miami also is the home for FIFA’s North American headquarters. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)

    Stadium Preparations Already Planned or Underway

    Representatives from the 16 cities were in Toronto last week for a series of planning on operational and fan experience topics such as guest operations, FIFA Fan Festivals and more. The FIFA World Cup 26 teams were also joined by Carla Qualtrough, Canada’s Minister of sport and physical activity.

    “It was great to welcome FIFA officials and representatives of all the host cities to Toronto for the Host City Workshop,” said Qualtrough. “We have an exciting opportunity in Canada to use our 13 World Cup matches and the six-week celebration of soccer to continue to propel this sport forward across our country long after the last ball of the tournament has been kicked.”

    Each of the host stadiums (which, remember, will be temporarily renamed) will also have to undergo some type of change. Some of them are extensive, such as Toronto’s increasing of its capacity. For some others, it’s more a case of the corners — FIFA wants extra space in those areas for not only corner kicks but for photographers surrounding the area. There’s also the desire for as much digital signage around the field as possible.

    In New Jersey, MetLife Stadium will undergo demolition of four corners of precast seating (1,740 seats in total) with new modular steel composite seating installed. Across the coast in Los Angeles, SoFi Stadium almost immediately after the schedule announcement started work on increasing the size of its field-level area, which was a major source of contention from the beginning when it was announced as a host stadium. The renovations at SoFi are similar to MetLife Stadium, replacing concrete in the corners of the lower bowl with bleacher risers that can be rolled back during soccer matches.

    “It’s really just changing pre-cast concrete in the corners of the stadium to a more retractable system,” Los Angeles Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff said in early February. “We’ll have the exact same seating capacity, exact same format and layout. The only difference will be a few of the rows in the corners will be on retractable seating versus permanent seating. … There was a lot written over the past few years about our venue and what it could or couldn’t do, and none of it was accurate. The venue was always designed to host a World Cup. The changes that we will make to the stadium were always contemplated for the World Cup. It’s a pretty easy fix.”

    Then there are the fields themselves. The grass has been a subplot for many of the stadiums with eight venues — Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey, Seattle and Vancouver — needing full grass fields. The process of putting down a grass surface at Lumen Field in Seattle has already begun, Seattle 2026 Chief Executive Officer Peter Tomozawa said in February.

    “They’ve been working closely with the team at FIFA on the pitch plan,” Corso said of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. “It’s going very well thus far and will continue to go through next year.”

    That does not mean the stadiums with grass fields are completely in the clear, however. FIFA is working with research teams from the University of Tennessee and Michigan State University to develop the plan for field installation at all 16 venues with the grass at each stadium expected to be the same. FIFA had pitch managers from all 16 host city stadiums and over 200 others in Knoxville recently to discuss field conditions.

    Those field conditions could also extend to all training sites and team base camps; SportsTravel has heard reports of some locations being told they need to replace existing grass fields with FIFA’s preferred type of grass along with multiple other changes, all at the venue’s cost, which has led some to pass on hosting camps. FIFA referred in its own release trumpeting its work with UT and Michigan State to “16 host stadiums, 84 training sites and 178 practice fields” to give an idea of how many facilities will be utilized around the country.

    “(Team base camps) is what will help make the tournament feel more national than it currently does,” said Kane. “There are host cities that are going to have team base camps close by or in them. … You’ll see MLS venues picked. Is Nashville on the list? Is Cincinnati and Columbus on the list? That’s when it gets a little bit more national because the World Cup will touch other states and regions.”

    Which, in many ways, has been FIFA’s plan all along.

Comments



Font Size
+
16
-
lines height
+
2
-