TORONTO, Dec 16 (Reuters) – With the toughest World Cup ever to reach its climax on Sunday in Qatar, the baton will be handed to 2026’s partner USA, Mexico and Canada as world soccer. show with more games and rides – and more beer.
After controversially awarding 2022 hosting duties to Qatar, a country smaller than the state of Connecticut, FIFA is going big in 2026, increasing the number of teams from 32 to 48 with games in three countries and multiple regions.
The last time Mexico (1986) and the United States (1994) hosted the World Cup, there were 24 teams.
With 16 cities across the United States, Canada and Mexico hosting games, the logistics will be overwhelming even before including the 48-team training camp.
The 2026 tournament will return to the traditional summer window after the games in November and December in Qatar to avoid the heat of June and July. Most of the competition is in the United States, which will see 11 cities from New York to Los Angeles win 60 of the 80 games, including quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.
Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey are the Mexican venues with Toronto and Vancouver getting Canadian hosting duties.
While the Gulf state’s treatment of migrant workers and its approach to LGBTQ rights and other restrictive social laws have at times overshadowed the World Cup in Qatar, action on the pitch has been praised. the head of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, and described the group stage as the best ever. .
‘BENEFITS IN AFRICA AND ASIA’
The tried and tested format of eight groups of four teams, which has attracted hundreds of millions of fans, could be scrapped for 2026 as FIFA considers having 16 groups of three teams in the first round.
More teams mean more surprises, as Saudi Arabia beat Argentina in their group opener, said Juergen Klinsmann, who won the World Cup with Germany and coached the US national team.
“We will see more surprises from Africa and Asia in the (2026) tournament,” Klinsmann, head of FIFA’s technical group, told reporters in Qatar.
The 32-team World Cup in Qatar has 64 matches, played over 29 days, and, currently, the 2026 finals will be 80 matches over 32 days.
With a group of four teams, there will be 104 games, requiring at least an extra week.
More matches, however, mean more money for TV rights and, as the World Cup brings in 90% of FIFA’s revenue, its leaders will be tempted .
The World Cup in Qatar generated $7.5 billion in rights and sponsor revenue, one billion more than the 2018 finals in Russia, FIFA said last month.
One sponsor that is almost looking forward to 2026 is Budweiser, the official beer of the World Cup, whose taps were taken from the stadium by the Qatari authorities a few days before kick-off.
The first World Cup held in a conservative Muslim country with strict alcohol controls, finding beer or liquor in Qatar was a challenge and when you did, it was expensive.
But in 2026 the taps will be flowing in 20 stadiums with areas full of thirsty fans.
Steve Keating reports in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne
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