Maybe you were elated by the unbelievable free kick German midfielder Toni Kroos blasted into the net with seconds left in the game — meaning the reigning World Cup champs might make it past the first round of the 2018 World Cup after all. Maybe you were infuriated.
Or maybe you weren’t paying attention at all, because this year the United States failed to even qualify for the most-watched sporting event in the world. That will change in the 2026 World Cup, which was just awarded to the entire continent of North America: US, Canada, and Mexico. If you’re already pumped about the prospect of visiting as many matches as possible, here’s everything you need to know before you start planning a continental road trip…even if it’s eight years away. A little advanced planning never hurt anyone.
A first: three World Cup hosts
1. On June 19, FIFA (the initials for the French translation of “International Federation of Football Association”) voted to give the countries of the US, Canada, and Mexico the rights to jointly host the 2026 World Cup.
2. 2026 will be the first time the World Cup is hosted by three countries, and only the second time it’s been hosted by more than just one. The only other time the World Cup was shared was when it was co-hosted by Japan and South Korea in 2002.
3. Canada came up with the idea to jointly host a World Cup after successfully hosting the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Which teams will play
4. It’s extremely likely the US will play in the 2026 event, since in all previous World Cups the host country automatically qualifies.
5. Although FIFA has yet to decide whether the three 2026 hosts will be automatically entered, they probably will — since the 2026 World Cup will have additional slots for countries from this region (North America, Central America, and the Caribbean).
6. In fact, the 2026 event will be the biggest World Cup ever. The current number of qualifying teams will expand from 32 to 48. That’s 1,100 of the world’s best soccer players converging for one month in North America.
Where will the games be held
7. Most of the 2026 World Cup will be held in the US, which will host 60 games, compared to Canada and Mexico’s 10 games each. The US will also host all games from the quarterfinals to the finals — in other words, the matches that you really care about.
8. Perhaps as a consolation for the scrappy distribution of games, the 2026 games may include three opening matches in each host country, instead of the usual one.
9. It could be two years before we know which cities will hold matches. The list now has 16 US cities, but will probably be whittled down to 11. Although contenders include Atlanta, Seattle, Denver, and Philadelphia, the money’s on New York, Boston, Dallas, and Los Angeles to host some of the games for sure.
10. Mexico’s matches are expected to take place in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey; Toronto and Montreal are the likely Canadian locations.
11. Chicago and Vancouver withdrew consideration as host cities, but there are hopes they’ll be reconsidered before the games actually arrive in eight years. Nashville and Edmonton are long shots for a chance to hold some matches.
The voting process
12. The US-Canada-Mexico bid won in a 134-65 landslide over a bid from Morocco. It was the first time the entire FIFA membership has voted on who gets to host the World Cup. In previous years, a small committee voted by secret ballot.
13. Qatar beat the US in a bid to host the 2022 World Cup through a murky process that was widely criticized. After a FIFA corruption scandal that led to criminal indictments in US courts a few years later, FIFA changed the voting process. Now all eligible national associations vote, and their vote is made public.
14. Money was one reason the North American trifecta won the 2026 World Cup. Its projected revenue of $14.3 billion for the tournament was double Morocco’s forecast of $7.2 billion.
15. The revenue is expected to result in an $11 billion profit for FIFA, which could translate to as much as $50 million going to each FIFA member federation.
16. The US Federation spent $6 million on its bid, traveling all over the world to convince member countries to vote for the North American trio.
17. US President Trump’s travel ban was a major concern in the three-way bid. Trump sent three letters to FIFA in support of the bid, stating in his most recent one that, “all eligible athletes, officials, and fans from all countries around the world would be able to enter the United States without discrimination.”
18. The win for the three North American countries is being praised by many as a symbol of unity at a time when Trump is criticizing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and demanding a border wall between the US and Mexico.
19. Then again, unless Trump revokes the 22nd Amendment on presidential term limits, even if he wins the 2020 election, he won’t be president during the 2026 World Cup.