FIFA 2026 World Cup

Eight years on: Who starts for the USMNT at 2026 World Cup?

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Imagine the year is 2026. The U.S. Men’s National Team is in the World Cup final. This is all hypothetical of course. But, who starts?

[ MORE: How 2026 World Cup was won by the United Bid ]

Wednesday’s vote to hand the United bid (Canada, Mexico and the United States) the World Cup has those in North America jubilant.

It may not take the sting out of the USMNT’s failure to reach Russia this summer, but it does give those that support the Stars and Stripes hope for the future.

Pro Soccer Talk takes a quick look at who could potentially start for the U.S. in 2026, with a number of bright, young stars aligning for the Yanks.


SQUAD BREAKDOWN

Zack Steffen has quickly become one of the top goalkeepers in Major League Soccer at the age of 23, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t have moved on to a top-tier European side by 2026. He could face some competition from other youngsters like Ethan Horvath or Jonathan Klinsmann, but things are shaping up for him to be the starter in net for many years to come.

Defensively, this is going to be a very strong unit, not to mention athletic. Matt Miazga and Erik Palmer-Brown could form a partnership for the next decade in the center of defense between the former’s size and the latter’s pace. Out wide, a pair of players playing in England and Spain, respectively, with Antonee Robinson and Shaq Moore will give the Americans two quality two-way players that can both defend and help in the attack.

It’s weird to think about life after Michael Bradley, but the U.S. has two studs in the midfield that will quickly change the perception of the nation. Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie will hold down the fort in front of the back four, with Adams being the wildcard because he simply doesn’t stop running. Ever.

Christian Pulisic will have already gone to Real Madrid and Barcelona and become a Champions League winner by this point. (Yes, maybe a bit too lofty on the expectations, but this is my dream.) Anyway, he’s a given. Andrew Carleton hasn’t gotten consistent time with Atlanta just yet due to the club’s massive amounts of attacking talent, but he’ll likely be in Europe as well by 2026. Then, PSG star Tim Weah will have the long-departed Neymar’s role of breaking down back lines and scoring 30 goals a year in Ligue 1.

Last, but not least, Josh Sargent will become the new Clint Dempsey/Jozy Altidore/Brian McBride hybrid that the U.S. has desperately needed up top. He’s fast. He’s strong. Dare we say, he’s used Werder Bremen as a stepping stone to Bayern Munich? Why not? He has star potential written all over him.

USMNT Projected XI 2026/Matt Reed

Report: France expected to vote against U.S. in 2026 bid

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What once seemed like a certainty is now once again proving to be a nightmare for the United States, as the country’s United bid took a major hit on Thursday.

[ MORE: AC Milan extends manager Gattuso to 2021 season ]

L’Equipe spoke with French football president Noel Le Graet, who has stated that France will vote in favor of Morocco ahead of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, leaving the United bid of the United States, Mexico and Canada with another major setback in its plans to host the tournament.

“I don’t see myself not supporting a country that is close to us,” Le Graet said. “Africa has only had one World Cup. That’s not a lot.

“Morocco is ready, even if they don’t have the same means as their fellow contenders. France only has one vote, but perhaps we will give momentum in Europe to choose Morocco.”

Earlier on Thursday, it was reported that two CONCACAF nations — Dominica and Saint Lucia — would also vote for Morocco, going against their fellow North and Central American allies.

The United bid looked a strong favorite to host in 2026 when it was first announced, particularly given the United States’ success hosting the World Cup back in 1994, however, recently the attention has shifted to Morocco, with the country receiving significant support from not only African nations but also Asia and South America, too.

In the voting process for the 2022 World Cup, the U.S. was faced with a similar task in trying to obtain hosting rights. The CONCACAF nation ultimately lost out on hosting to Qatar, despite major links to voter corruption.

Voting for the 2026 World Cup will take place in Russia on June 13, the day before this summer’s tournament takes place.

MetLife Stadium would host 2026 World Cup final; semis in Atlanta, Dallas

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The United bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup appears to be very much in jeopardy, but the structure of the jointly-held competition continues to be revealed bit by bit.

While the USA, Mexico and Canada are in a tough fight against Morocco — the only other nation currently bidding on the 2026 World Cup — the official bid for North America has revealed that the final would be held in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium if the United bid is selected.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up against Paraguay? ]

The New Jersey-based stadium has hosted various major soccer events in the past, including, the 2016 Copa America Centenario final contested by Argentina and champions Chile.

Meanwhile, the two World Cup semifinal matches would take place in Atlanta and Dallas, respectively.

Atlanta boasts a newly-developed Mercedes-Benz Stadium — which opened in 2017 to Atlanta United and the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Meanwhile, Dallas features AT&T Stadium — which is home to the Dallas Cowboys and holds a capacity of over 100,000.

The bid — which announced 23 cities across the U.S., Mexico and Canada on March 15 — was officially submitted to FIFA on March 16 for approval.

With the tournament set to expanded to 48 teams by 2026, the bid has proposed that Canada and Mexico each host seven group stage matches and an additional three knockout round matches (two in Round of 32, one in Round of 16).

Reports: Chicago, Vancouver pull out of World Cup 2026 bid

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Two major North American cities with World Cup-ready stadiums have pulled out of being host cities in the 2026 World Cup bid.

According to two separate reports, both Chicago and Vancouver will not be hosting any World Cup matches should the joint-bid between the U.S., Canada and Mexico win the right to hold the 2026 World Cup in North America.

In both cases, city and state leaders argued that FIFA asked for major financial guarantees without promising a huge return on investment, making the elected officials nervous about moving forward with a bid.

[READ: Chivas too much for Seattle]

“FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk,” Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s office said in a statement Wednesday. “The uncertainty for taxpayers, coupled with FIFA’s inflexibility and unwillingness to negotiate, were clear indications that further pursuit of the bid wasn’t in Chicago’s best interests.”

It’s a big loss for the bid to lose these cities, though. Vancouver, who’s BC Place seats 54,000, hosted group stage and knockout round games before hosting the final of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which the U.S. won in thrilling fashion over Japan. And Chicago, which had previously pulled itself out for the U.S. World Cup bids in 2010 and 2018-2022, hosted the opening match of the 1994 World Cup at Soldier Field and was assumed from the start that the third-largest city in the U.S. by population would be a host city.

As of now, Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton have agreed to move forward with the United 2026 bid, which should be more than enough for the current 10 games Canada will host. Mexico has proposed games played at Estadio Azteca, as well as in Nuevo Leon and Guadalajara.

Meanwhile, the U.S. still has 21 other venues to pick from, including major NFL stadiums such as MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and the under-construction Los Angeles Stadium in Hollywood Park. FIFA has required the opening-match stadium and final stadium to seat 80,000+, while venues must seat a minimum of 40,000, which would force stadium’s like Toronto’s BMO Field to expand further.

Blatter: North American bid ‘afraid’ to lose 2026 World Cup

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ZURICH (AP) The North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup now seems “afraid” of losing to Morocco, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Thursday.

A change in strategy this week gave the leaders of the American, Canadian and Mexican soccer federations equal status in a bid that has been heavily favored to win the hosting rights on June 13 in Moscow. The reshuffle reduced the role of previous bid chairman Sunil Gulati, the most senior American in FIFA who served on the soccer body’s executive committee under Blatter.

[READ: Tottenham crumble on cusp of glory]

“They give the impression that they are not any longer very sure that they will win, that’s my impression,” Blatter said. “But I don’t know why they are afraid.”

Last month, Blatter wrote on Twitter that Morocco was the “logical host” of the 2026 tournament. FIFA preferred single-nation World Cup hosts under Blatter’s leadership.

Still, Blatter declined to fully endorse Morocco’s ability to host a 48-team tournament alone. The 2026 edition will have the 16 extra teams wanted by Blatter successor Gianni Infantino, who supports multi-nation bids.

“I don’t know if the Moroccans are able to organize a World Cup of 48,” Blatter told invited reporters at a briefing in Zurich related to his own legal issues.

Both bids will formally submit plans next week. A FIFA-appointed panel will then evaluate the candidates and publicly score them for potential organizational and commercial risks.

Two days ahead of his 82nd birthday, Blatter said he was “a happy man.” He is still seeking to challenge a six-year ban from soccer for unethical conduct, a punishment that followed Swiss federal prosecutors opening criminal proceedings against him in September 2015. He has yet to be charged.

The Swiss official has long blamed an executive committee vote in December 2010 that picked Russia and Qatar as future World Cup hosts for sparking American and Swiss federal investigations of FIFA officials that ultimately forced him from office.

Though Blatter says he voted for the United States bid that lost to Qatar for the 2022 hosting rights, he said that doesn’t mean the country deserves to get the 2026 edition.

“I was in favor of the U.S. for 2022. To say now they must have 2026 …,” he said, pausing to add: “History will show if it’s right or wrong.”

Blatter acknowledged he once thought the 2026 contest was “a decision that was taken” in favor of North America.

Last May, the three co-hosts pushed FIFA to give them preferential status before Morocco joined the contest by an August deadline with little bid structure in place.

Blatter said the U.S. team’s failure to qualify for this year’s World Cup – which led to Gulati not seeking re-election as soccer federation president – complicated the leadership issue. The bid calls for the United States to host 60 of 80 games in 2026, with Canada and Mexico hosting 10 each.

“They have put all the three together in order to show that it is a combined organization. They should have taken the decision at that time (of the World Cup exit),” Blatter said. “The USA is big and the decisions are not always easy to understand.”