Soccer fans across the globe are thrilled today to be learning that FIFA has approved an expanded competition format for the 2026 Men’s World Cup — a move that will not only significantly increase the number of total matches played, but should equate to even higher economic gains for host cities like Toronto.
“Based on a thorough review that considered sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness, as well as team and fan experience, the FIFA Council unanimously approved the proposed amendment to the FIFA World Cup 2026 competition format from 16 groups of three to 12 groups of four with the top two and eight best third-placed teams progressing to a round of 32,” announced the organization on Tuesday.
“The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches, while providing balanced rest time between competing teams.”
With the approval of this expansion, 48 teams will now play a staggering 104 games (as opposed to the previous 80) over six weeks in June and July of 2026 across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
All 16 North American host cities are expected to host more matches than previously expected, though it is not clear how many each city will get. The only two Canadian host cities in the competition, Vancouver and Toronto, had previously been guaranteed at least 10 matches each.
FIFA Council approves international match calendars
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) March 14, 2023
Wherever the additional matches take place, the expansion is great news for Canada’s national men’s team, who are ensured to play at least three times (as opposed to just once.)
Teams will now have to play eight matches to win the entire tournament, compared to seven at the 2022 World Cup, with the top two and eight best third-placed teams progressing to the last round of 32.
While hosting these matches will be exorbitantly expensive for Toronto, each individual event is expected to draw more than a billion viewers.
The City of Toronto voted back in 2018 to endorse a joint bid for the 2026 World Cup with Canada, Mexico and The U.S. Initial costs were pegged at nearly $300 million for Toronto alone, though the total could actually come in a lot higher by the time all is said and done with the inclusion of these new matches and the complete revamp of BMO Field.
“Based on the new calendar, the FIFA World Cup 2026 final will be played on Sunday, 19 July 2026,” announced soccer’s governing body following a council meeting in Rwanda on Tuesday.
“With 56 days, the total combined number of rest, release and tournament days remain identical to the 2010, 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cup editions. The detailed Men’s International Match Calendar 2025-2030 will be published in the coming days.”