Then-UEFA head Michel Platini had suggested in January 2015 an expansion of the tournament to 40 teams, an idea FIFA president Gianni Infantino also suggested in March 2016. A desire to increase the number of participants in the tournament from the previous 32 team format was announced 4 October 2016. Four expansion options were considered:Expand to 40 teams (8 groups of 5 teams) – 88 matches
Expand to 40 teams (10 groups of 4 teams) – 76 matches
Expand to 48 teams (opening 32-team playoff round) – 80 matches
Expand to 48 teams (16 groups of 3 teams) – 80 matches
On 10 January 2017, the FIFA Council voted unanimously to expand to a 48 team tournament. The tournament will open with a group stage consisting of 16 groups of 3 teams, with the top 2 teams progressing from each group to a knockout tournament starting with a round of 32 teams. The number of games played overall will increase from 64 to 80, but the number of games played by finalists remains at 7, the same as with 32 teams, except that one group match will be replaced by a knockout match. The tournament will also be completed within 32 days, same as previous 32-team tournaments.
The proposal for expansion was opposed by the European Clubs Association and its member clubs, saying that the number of games was already at an "unacceptable" level and they urged the governing body to reconsider its idea of increasing the number of teams that qualify. German national team coach Joachim Löw warned that expansion, as had occurred for Euro 2016, would dilute the value of the world tournament because players have already reached their physical and mental limit. Another criticism of the new format is that with 3-team groups, the risk of collusion between the two teams playing in the last round will increase compared with 4-team groups (where simultaneous kick-offs have been employed). One suggestion by President Infantino is that group matches that end in draws will be decided by penalty shootouts.
The FIFA Executive Committee (now FIFA Council) decided on 30 May 2015 that any country could bid for a World Cup provided that their continental confederation had not hosted the preceding World Cup. For the 2026 World Cup, this meant that bids from the Asian Football Confederation (which is to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar) would not be allowed. Later, in October 2016, the FIFA Council approved the general principle that member associations from continental confederations of the last two hosts of the FIFA World Cup (i.e. the AFC and UEFA, the latter being due to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia) will be ineligible to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup; however, the FIFA Council will have the power to grant eligibility to member associations of the confederation of the second-to-last host of the FIFA World Cup (i.e. UEFA) and open the bidding process to any interested MAs from this confederation in the event that none of the received bids fulfil the strict technical and financial requirements.
It was also approved that co-hosting of the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be permitted, not limited to a specific number, but evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and that for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the FIFA general secretariat, after consultation with the Competitions Committee, will have the power to exclude bidders who do not meet the minimum technical requirements to host the competition. Joint bids had been banned by FIFA after the 2002 World Cup.
Therefore, the 2026 World Cup will be hosted by one of the remaining four confederations: CONCACAF (last hosted in 1994), CAF (last hosted in 2010), CONMEBOL (last hosted in 2014), or OFC (never hosted before), or potentially by UEFA in case no bid from those four meets the requirements.
Under the initial decision, there would be a change from FIFA's previous policy, which applied for the 2018 and 2022 bidding process, and allowed any country to bid provided that its confederation had not hosted either of the previous two World Cups. However, the revised decision effectively means that this policy remains the same, except for the chance for potential eligibility of the second-to-last hosting confederation.
Bidding for the 2026 FIFA World Cup was postponed due to the 2015 FIFA corruption case and the subsequent resignation of Sepp Blatter, then it was restarted following the FIFA Council meeting on 10 May 2016, wherein the bidding process will consist of four phases:May 2016 – May 2017: a new strategy and consultation phase
June 2017 – Dec 2018: enhanced phases for bid preparation
January 2019 – February 2020: bid evaluation
May 2020: final decision
The consultation phase will focus on four areas:The inclusion of human rights requirements, sustainable event management, environmental protection in the bidding
Principle of exclusion of bidders that do not meet technical requirements
Review of the current stance on joint bids
Number of teams
CONCACAF member federations (Canada, Mexico, United States) are favoured to host the 2026 World Cup for the first time since 1994 World Cup. Also, FIFA President Infantino will consider the option for triple co-hosting by Canada, Mexico and the United States. On 14 October 2016, FIFA said it will accept CONCACAF triple tournament-sharing bid by Canada, Mexico and the United States.
According to CONCACAF president, Victor Montagliani, there would be a possibility of a joint bid between the United States, Canada and Mexico to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Canada
In July 2012, Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani confirmed plans for a Canadian bid, saying: "We have verbally told FIFA that when the bid process begins for the next available World Cup, which would be the 2026 World Cup, that the CSA will be one of the countries putting in a formal proposal". At the time the bid was announced, Canada had hosted the men's 1987 Under-16 World Championship and the U-20 World Cups for both men and women; the country has since hosted the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup and the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2015. In October 2013, Montagliani confirmed Canada's intention to bid for the 2026 tournament. On 23 January 2014, the Canadian Soccer Association confirmed that it is bidding for the 2026 World Cup.
In September 2012, Mexican Football Federation president Justino Compeán confirmed plans for a Mexican bid. Mexico has hosted two previous World Cups in 1970 and 1986 (Colombia had been chosen to host the 1986 tournament, but due to economic problems, Mexico was awarded as the new host). In October 2013, Liga MX President said that Mexico is interested in joining forces with the U.S. to co-host a bid for the 2026 World Cup. On 9 December 2014, the Mexican Football Federation confirmed that it is bidding for the 2026 World Cup. If the campaign is successful, Mexico will be the first nation to have hosted the World Cup three times.
On 13 May 2016 at the FIFA Congress in Mexico City, USSF board member John Motta told ESPN "whatever happens, we will bid for the 2026 World Cup — either jointly (with Mexico) or we will go it alone." Previously, United States Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati stated the United States would only seriously consider bidding for the 2026 World Cup if the bidding process is more transparent and fair. During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, then-FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke said that he felt there was interest in the United States for hosting the 2026 Cup. Then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter said, “Perhaps there’s a big commercial opportunity arising now in the United States because of the tremendous television audiences that are booming and that the World Cup has also encouraged in its domestic game as well. We did well with football when it first went to the United States but the opportunities are bigger now." The United States hosted the 1994 FIFA World Cup and unsuccessfully bid for the 2022 World Cup, which was won by Qatar in 2010. On 18 April 2015, Brazilian legend Pelé stated that the United States should host the 2026 World Cup. The U.S. hosting of the 2026 World Cup would coincide with the country's 250th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence.
In March 2010, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe confirmed plans for a Colombian bid. At the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup final, then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter said "Colombia is ready for a World Cup". Colombia was chosen to host the 1986 FIFA World Cup in 1974, but due to financial problems, was later awarded to Mexico in 1983. The country has since hosted the 2011 Under-20 World Cup, World Games 2013 and the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup. In July 2010, Peru also suggested co-hosting with Colombia and Ecuador, and President Uribe reacted positively, saying "every positive proposition has to be welcomed." The bid would also form part of the country's National Development Plan. On 8 March 2015, Senator Jorge Espinoza called on President Juan Manuel Santos to begin a "diplomatic offensive" for the bidding process for their right to host the 2026 edition.
AFC member federations will be able to bid to host the 2026 World Cup only if none of the eligible candidates are able to fulfil the necessary criteria. OFC member federations do not face the same restriction, but it is not clear how joint bids involving both AFC and OFC countries would be received. Australia and New Zealand
On 13 April 2015, former New Zealand Cricket CEO and head of the Tourism Industry Association NZ, Martin Snedden proposed a possible New Zealand and Australia joint bid for either the 2026 or 2030 FIFA World Cup. Australia had also unsuccessfully bid for the 2022 World Cup.
Snedden’s vision was for both the Asian Football Confederation and Oceania Football Confederation working together to achieve the event. Snedden recognized there would be plenty of hurdles to leap. On the idea of a potential bid, New Zealand's then-Prime Minister John Key said the decision on such a bid would be "a long way away". However, Football Federation Australia promptly dismissed the idea of a joint bid, saying Australia was not currently interested in bidding. Nonetheless, conversations with the New Zealand government would continue.
Moroccan Minister of Youth and Sports, Moncef Belkhayat, said to the French daily Le Figaro
: "The African Cup of Nations 2015 will be the first indicator of our ability to host a great event. Then we can confidently consider us as a candidate to host the World Cup 2026". However, in November 2014, Morocco refused to host the African Cup of Nations due to the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa. Morocco lost bids to host the World Cup in 1994, 1998, 2006, and 2010 to the United States, France, Germany, and South Africa respectively. This makes Morocco the country to have launched the most bids without ever gaining the hosting rights.
UEFA member federations will be able to bid to host the 2026 World Cup only if none of the eligible candidates are able to fulfil the necessary criteria. Azerbaijan and Turkey
On 22 May 2012, Azerbaijan Minister of Sports Azad Rahimov proposed a joint bid from Turkey and Azerbaijan for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
On 24 March 2015, Football Association (FA) chairman Greg Dyke announced a possible bid for the 2026 World Cup, however this was dependant on whether Sepp Blatter remained the chairman of FIFA. Dyke declared that "we don't bid while Mr Blatter's there." This is due to England losing out to Russia for the right to host the 2018 World Cup, in what Dyke called a corrupt bidding process, stating that "I don't think it [FIFA] is a straight organisation and hasn't been for many years." England last hosted the 1966 World Cup.
On 13 December 2014, Mayor of Astana Adilbek Zhaksybekov announced a possible bid from Kazakhstan. Football Federation of Kazakhstan president Yerlan Kozhagapanov stated the government plans to bid for the 2026 World Cup.
Canada – CTV, TSN, RDS
United States – Fox, Telemundo
FIFA has come in for criticism for the way Fox was awarded the rights: there was no tender process, the network receiving the rights in order to placate it regarding the move of the 2022 World Cup (which it has the rights to) from summer to winter time, during the last few weeks of the National Football League regular season. Due to the lack of a tender, FIFA lost revenue. According to the BBC's sports editor Dan Roan, "As ever, it seemed, FIFA was looking after itself."