Football: Hosts US, Mexico, Canada get automatic berths in 2026 World Cup

Qatar Ambassador to the UN Sheikha Alya Al Thani (second left) with (from left) delegates Linda Thomas Greenfield (US), Alfonso Zegbe (Mexico) and Omar Alghabra (Canada) at the World Cup handover ceremony on Dec 18, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

LAUSANNE – The United States, along with Mexico and Canada, will automatically qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

The three countries won the right to host the football World Cup in a united North American bid. Fifa historically has given host nations the right to play in the World Cup without going through the qualification tournaments, though this is the first time it had to set aside three host slots.

The tournament is set to expand from 32 teams to 48 in 2026. Another three berths will be awarded to Concacaf nations via qualifying.

Fifa released a statement on Tuesday saying: “In addition, the Fifa council confirmed that, in line with the long-standing tradition of having all hosts competing at the Fifa World Cup, as well as sporting and operational considerations, the hosts of the Fifa World Cup 2026, namely Canada, Mexico and the USA, will qualify automatically for the final round of the competition, with their slots therefore being deducted from the overall allocation of six assigned to Concacaf.”

While the US and Mexico tend to qualify for most World Cups, it was good news for Canada, whose men’s national team broke a 36-year drought between World Cup appearances when they qualified for Qatar in 2022. Canada lost all three of their group-stage matches.

The Fifa council also determined its timetable for bidding for the right to host the 2030 World Cup, saying it will make its decision next year.

That meeting will be separate from Fifa’s meeting to select a host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, which will be held first, earlier in 2024.

There are three confirmed bids for the 2030 tournament – a South American joint bid featuring Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile; a Spain-Portugal joint bid that added war-torn Ukraine last year; and Morocco. REUTERS

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