Revealed: World Cup 2026 nations will be separated into regional 'clusters' to limit travel

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World Cup 2026
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said that teams playing in the 2026 World Cup will be separated into clusters to limit travel.

WHAT HAPPENED? The 2026 World Cup will be held in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, with 16 cities across the three countries hosting games throughout the tournament. As a result, games will be scheduled out regionally, limiting cross-continent travel by teams mid-tournament.

WHAT THEY SAID: "The challenges will be the whole logistics around it," Infantino said. "It's a continent - three countries and not three small countries either - three big countries.  The distances, the time zones, the climatic differences too - altitude in Mexico, sea level in other parts.  So for us it's important to create the right environment for the teams and the fans to be put in the best possible conditions. Meaning not having to travel too much, especially at the beginning. So we will create some clusters where teams will be based depending on the draw and then they will play their games in that particular cluster."

THE BIGGER PICTURE: The 2026 tournament will be different than the 2022 competition in Qatar, which provided pretty simple travel due to the smaller size of the country. While most 2022 World Cup matches were within an hour drive of one another centered around Doha, the World Cup across North America will be spread out massively, prompting FIFA to turn to the cluster system.

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Gianni Infantino 2023

2026 World Cup logo

WHAT NEXT? There's still a long way to go before the World Cup kicks off in June 2026. It'll be the first World Cup with 48 teams, with the field expanded from the previous system of 32.