Azteca Stadium to Host Historic Opening Match of Expanded 2026 World Cup

Mexico, U.S., and Canada Collaborate to Bring Football Spectacle to 16 Dynamic Cities

Mexico City’s legendary Azteca Stadium, forever etched in football folklore for Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in 1986, has been chosen as the prestigious venue for the opening match of the 2026 World Cup. This monumental tournament, the first-ever World Cup in a 48-team format, is set to kick off on June 11, with Mexico, the United States, and Canada proudly standing as the three host nations responsible for orchestrating the grand spectacle.

In a livestream announcement on Sunday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, joined by notable figures including comedian Kevin Hart, rapper Drake, and socialite Kim Kardashian, unveiled the schedule for the 2026 World Cup. The final showdown will take place at New Jersey’s iconic MetLife Stadium on July 19, with its impressive capacity of 82,500 spectators and a rich history as one of the host stadiums during the memorable 1994 World Cup.

The expansion of the 2026 World Cup means an additional 24 matches, bringing the total to 104 games spread across 16 carefully selected venues. The tournament will feature 12 groups, each comprising four teams, with the top two and eight best third-placed teams advancing.

After the group stage, the competition transitions into a thrilling straight knock-out format, adding an extra layer of challenge and endurance to the journey towards the World Cup title. The knockout stage begins with the round of 32 on June 28, followed by the round of 16 on July 4. The quarterfinals will take place in Los Angeles, Miami, Kansas City, and Boston starting on July 8.

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The quest for a place in the coveted semifinals will unfold in Dallas and Atlanta on July 14 and 15 respectively. As the climax approaches, the third-place playoff will be held in Miami on July 18.

Sixteen cities, including Monterrey and Guadalajara in Mexico, Vancouver in Canada, and Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, and San Francisco in the U.S., have been selected to host matches, each bringing its unique energy to the tournament. Despite the potential for significant travel between matches due to the expanded format, FIFA assures that the schedule was carefully designed to ensure fairness and balance, considering rest and recovery for the participating teams.

FIFA emphasizes that teams will have a minimum of three days of rest for 103 out of the record 104 matches in the tournament, allowing players to recuperate and prepare adequately for each game while minimizing the impact of travel on their physical and mental readiness. “The tournament’s innovative match schedule will serve to minimize travel for teams and fans alike, while the number of rest days between fixtures will be maximized,” read a FIFA statement.

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