The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Four Predictions as 2026 World Cup Approaches

AP Photo / LM Otero

FIFA officially announced on Feb. 4 that the final for the 2026 World Cup will take place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on July 19, 2026. Despite the fact that the tournament will commence in over two years’ time, excitement runs high as the world awaits the return of “The Beautiful Game” in its purest form.

The 2026 World Cup will make history as the first edition of the sporting world’s most famous event to span three countries — in addition to the games being held in the United States, Mexico will host the opener at the historic Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, along with games in Monterrey and Guadalajara, while Canada will host games in both Vancouver and Toronto. The tournament has been divided into three regions for group-stage matches: west, central and east to ease logistical challenges. While the 2022 World Cup in Qatar took place in December due to the intense summer heat, the 2026 tournament will occur during the summer as usual. The field of teams has also been expanded to 48 for the first time since the tournament’s inception in 1930. This will bring the total number of games played up to 104 from 64 — good news for all soccer lovers out there.

In anticipation of the world’s favorite sporting event, here are some predictions for what the 23rd edition of the tournament will bring:

France Early Favorite to Win

If you’re a gambler, France just might be your side to watch for 2026. They are the tournament’s early betting favorites and will likely have a squad about as good as their 2018 winners and 2022 runners-up — in other words, their “golden generation” might have at least one more deep run within them. Kylian Mbappe, the only player in history to notch a hat-trick in the World Cup Finals and already Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time leading goalscorer at 25, will be 27 when the cup kicks off and will remain perhaps the world’s greatest player still in his peak. Real Madrid midfield duo Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga seem poised to perhaps push out established national team players Adrien Rabiot and Paul Pogba by the time summer 2026 rolls around. France has a seemingly endless pool of talent to draw from and the combination of strong youth movement and experience at the highest stages of competition could be the difference-maker between France and other strong contenders like Spain or Brazil.

Messi’s Last Dance?

Lionel Messi needs no introduction. On top of his storied tenure with FC Barcelona and his various legendary performances on the club stage, he has experienced a late-career renaissance in regards to his tenure on the Argentinian national team after he ended his brief retirement from international play in 2016 and led Argentina to victory in the 2021 Copa America and the 2022 World Cup. With these major victories under his belt, he cemented his legacy as perhaps soccer’s all-time greatest player. However, by summer 2026 he will be almost 40 years old and remains noncommittal on whether he will even lace up his boots for the next tournament.

With or without Messi, Argentina seems poised to compete at a high level as reigning champs, with much of their 2022 squad set to return, including difference-makers such as Julian Alvarez, Emiliano Martinez, Alexis MacAllister and Enzo Fernandez. Will they be able to be the first repeat champions since Brazil won two tournaments in a row in 1958 and 1962?

xxCould the U.S. Make a Knockout Stage Run?

Soccer is infamously not quite the forte of the United States. Most young American athletes have historically gravitated toward football, basketball and baseball rather than soccer. Things, however, are beginning to change. A strong youth movement for the U.S. National Team showed some promise at the 2022 edition of the tournament, and more Americans than ever before have carved out roles at big European clubs, such as Christian Pulisic at AC Milan, Weston McKennie at Juventus or Gio Reyna at Nottingham Forest. Aided by raucous home crowds, the U.S. could be poised to outperform expectations.

Is Football Finally Coming Home?

England’s chances of success appear low, considering its perennial underachievement and the fact that the national team, at times, seems cursed. Their most recent UEFA Euro campaign started with high hopes but ended with Bukayo Saka failing to convert during a finals penalty shootout against a strong Italian side, and the 2022 World Cup didn’t go any better with England captain Harry Kane missing another vital penalty. Still, the passionate fans of England hold out some hope that their side might see some success in two years’ time. Their hopes aren’t without reason. Jude Bellingham at a mere 20 years old is already perhaps the world’s best central midfielder, and Harry Kane, England’s top all-time goalscorer, will be 32 at the time of the tournament’s kick off. Barring major injury, Kane will probably still have gas left in the tank. The English will have to shake off the ghosts of their longtime international struggles, but their chances in 2026 look about as good as anybody’s.

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