After two exciting semi-finals, a very interesting and intriguing third place match, the 2022 World Cup Final had a lot to live up to.

And fortunately it did, giving us arguably the greatest and most dramatic World Cup Final in history and with Argentina lifting the trophy on penalties over France, we have crowned perhaps the greatest player in history in Lionel Messi, who has now won everything it is possible to win in his incredible career.

All that in a final where the incredible Kylian Mbappe became only the second player ever to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final (and the first to do so and still finish on a losing team).

While we crowned Messi as perhaps the best player ever, we also saw the mantle of the greatest player in the world at present passed on to Mbappe who was simply electric and fully deserving of the Golden Boot for scoring eight goals at the tournament.

At 23 still, his achievements at the World Cup are unparalleled and he will surely go on to break more records in future tournaments.

Yet if you head over to bet365 Sport right now, and check out the World Cup betting, you will find that there is already betting available for the next tournament in 2026!

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However, the 2026 tournament promises to be a very different one to what we saw in Qatar. From a World Cup that was essentially based in just one city and across a handful of Stadiums, played in the winter and in a relatively short period of time between 32 teams – everything is going to change in 2026.

In this article, we’ll explore a little more about the 2026 World Cup Finals and why it will be very different to the 2022 event as well as taking a look at some of the early prices on teams who bet365 believe could be in with a chance of following Argentina’s glory of 2022.

Why Will The 2026 World Cup Be Different?

There were plenty of critics about the decision FIFA took to host the World Cup in Qatar. Many of those complaints, about sexism, misogyny, and discrimination against the LBGTQ+ community, not to mention the treatment of migrant workers who built the World Cup infrastructure, still hold true even after a great finals in terms of football.

And that is without even considering the very dodgy dealings that surrounded Qatar getting the World Cup in the first place.

However, there was a lot to like. The one city World Cup tournament experiment seemed to work exceptionally well, as did a ban an alcohol at the grounds. In general, crowds were noisy, fervent and well-behaved.

But many of those things that worked well in Qatar, are all going to be changed for the 2026 World Cup Finals.

Here’s a list of what the major changes will be:

  • 2026 World Cup Finals will be hosted across THREE countries in multiple city venues across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
  • The number of teams competing in the tournament will increase to 48 from 32.
  • The number of groups in the Group Stage will increase from 8 to 16.
  • 32 Teams will qualify for the Knockout Phase (up from 16 in 2022).
  • The World Cup 2026 will once again be played in the northern hemisphere summer (from June through to July 2026)

World Cup 2026 – What We Know So Far

World Cup 2026 Format

There will be three host countries for the 2026 World Cup – Canada, the United States and Mexico each of whom will qualify as hosts.

The remaining 45 spots in the tournament will be allocated as follows:

  • Asian Football Confederation – 8 confirmed, 1 World Cup Playoff Spot
  • African Football Confederation – 9 confirmed, 1 World Cup Playoff Spot
  • CONCACAF (hosts) – 3 Hosts, plus 3 confirmed, 1 World Cup Playoff Spot
  • CONMEBOL – 6 confirmed, 1 World Cup Playoff Spot
  • Oceania – 1 Confirmed, 1 World Cup Playoff Spot
  • UEFA – 16 confirmed.

That makes 3 hosts and 43 qualifiers – Total 46 Qualifiers from standard qualifying. The remaining two spots will come from the World Cup Playoffs.

The World Cup 2026 Playoffs

The 6 teams that qualify for the World Cup Playoff spots will see the top two teams seeded, based on their FIFA World Rankings.

The four non-ranked teams will then playoff two World Playoff Semi Finals, with the two winners going on to face the two seeded teams in the World Cup Playoff Finals.

The two teams that win the World Cup Playoff Final will be the final two teams that qualify for the finals.

The venue and dates for the Playoffs for the 2026 are yet to be decided but it will take place in one or more of the host countries.

World Cup 2026 Venues

The 2026 World Cup will also be hosted in 16 cities, which will be divided into Western, Central and Eastern Regions.

The host venues & stadia for each of the regions are as follows:

Western Region

  • Guadalajara (Mexico) – Estadio Akron (49,850)
  • Los Angeles (USA) – SoFi Stadium (70,240 – expandable to 100,240)
  • San Francisco/Bay Area (USA) – Levi’s Stadium (68,500 – expandable to 75,000)
  • Seattle (USA) – Lumen Field (69,000 – expandable to 72,000)
  • Vancouver (Canada) – BC Place (54,500)

Central Region

  • Atlanta (USA) – Mercedes-Benz Stadium (71,000 – expandable to 83,000)
  • Dallas (USA) – AT&T Stadium (80,000 – expandable to 105,000)
  • Houston (USA) – NRG Stadium (72,220 – expandable to 80,000)
  • Kansas City (USA) – Arrowhead Stadium (76,416)
  • Mexico City (Mexico) – Azteca Stadium (87,523)
  • Monterrey (Mexico) – Estadio BBVA (53,500)

Eastern Region

  • Boston – (USA) – Gillette Stadium (65,878 – expandable to 70,000)
  • Miami – (USA) – Hard Rock Stadium (64,767)
  • New York/New Jersey (USA) – MetLife Stadium (82.500)
  • Philadelphia (USA) – Lincoln Financial Field (69,796)
  • Toronto (Canada) – BMO Field (30,000 – being expanded to 45,500)

World Cup Group Stage

An expanded World Cup means an expanded opening Group Stage and Knockout Phase of the tournament, although FIFA’s currently preferred option sees teams playing no more games than they did in 2022.

  • Group Phase

Currently, FIFA are planning for a group phase that sees 16 Groups, each of which will have 3 teams competing in it. Teams will play two group stage games each with the top two teams in each group qualifying for the Knockout Phase of the tournament.

Several prominent critics have expressed concern that this group format is open to abuse, similar to what happened in the 1982 World Cup when Austria and Germany played out a 1-0 win for Germany – a result which qualified both teams and eliminated Algeria.

As yet, FIFA have not significantly addressed these issues.

  • Knockout Phase

With 2 teams from each of the 16 groups qualifying for the Knockout Phase, teams will face an additional knockout round, a Round of 32 at the 2026 World Cup Final. This will be followed by a Round of 16, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals, Third Place Match and/or the Final for the teams that get that far.

Whether or not this format remains the same over the next few years is open to debate as there are many critics of the Group Phase in particular and FIFA, while indicating the option above was their preferred option, do have the power to change the format if they so wish.

Latest World Cup 2026 Betting Odds

It is going to be very interesting to see how these betting odds change over the next four years, but bet365 already has odds available for the 2026 World Cup and the odds of the top teams you could pick to back are outlined below:

  • France – 9/2 favourites
  • Brazil – 6/1
  • England – 8/1
  • Argentina, Spain – 9/1
  • Germany – 10/1
  • Portugal – 14/1
  • Netherlands – 16/1
  • Italy – 25/1
  • Belgium, United States – 33/1
  • Uruguay – 40/1
  • Mexico – 50/1
  • Denmark, Croatia, Norway, Morocco – 66/1
  • Switzerland, Japan – 80/1
  • Serbia, Chile, Canada – 100/1
  • 150/1 bar

Home nations fans can also back Scotland and Wales (both at 350/1), while the odds on a Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland World Cup win in 2026 are rated at 1000/1.

It may be four years away but after the drama of World Cup 2022, there will be many fans already looking forward to what will happen in the Summer of 2026 and dreaming that their team can perhaps enjoy the glory!