2026 World Cup kicks off two years from today

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - May 31: FIFA President Gianni Infantino Message To Mark The Two Years To Go To The FIFA World Cup 26 at the Home of FIFA on May 31, 2024 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/FIFA)

Credit: FIFA

Credit: FIFA

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - May 31: FIFA President Gianni Infantino Message To Mark The Two Years To Go To The FIFA World Cup 26 at the Home of FIFA on May 31, 2024 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/FIFA)

The 2026 World Cup, which includes eight matches in Atlanta, will kick off two years from today.

The tournament will feature 48 teams for the first time and will be hosted by three countries -- the United States, Canada and Mexico -- for the first time. Sixteen cities will host matches. FIFA President Gianni Infantino described the matches like there being almost 50 Super Bowls played in just a few weeks.

The tournament will begin June 11, 2026 with the opening match featuring Mexico in Mexico City at Estadio Azteca. Canada’s opening match as a team and country will be played June 12 in Toronto at BMO Field. It will feature Canada. The U.S. men’s team’s first match as a team and country will be played on June 12 in Los Angeles.

“Two years from now, the world will stand still and watch what is happening in North America,” Infantino said in a statement provided by FIFA.

The matches in Atlanta are scheduled to be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tickets are expected to go on sale next September, the tournament draw is set for December 2025 and grass will be placed inside the stadium two months later -- four months before the opening of the World Cup.

Here’s a look at eight matches scheduled for Mercedes-Benz Stadium:

Group stage: June 15, 18, 21, 24 and 27.

Knockout round: July 1

Round of 16: July 7

Semifinal: July 15

More than 200 countries will compete for one of the slots in the final. The U.S., Mexico and Canada will be automatically included in the field because they are hosting.

“Two years seems far away, but we know it is very, very close,” Infantino said. “Every day, there is something happening in one of the cities, Every day, there are events which are being planned, which are taking place, be it with the authorities, be it with our partners, the sponsors, the broadcasters. The final draw that will, of course, come up before the event, the playoff tournament to decide the last teams that will qualify – all of this requires a lot of preparation and our team is excited, the teams in the cities are excited as well, the fans around the world and in the three host countries are excited. So, we are counting not just the days, we are counting the hours, and the minutes.”

Atlanta remains interested in hosting the international broadcast center for the 2026 tournament. The host site has yet to be selected by FIFA.

Atlanta next week will host the opening match of Copa America, featuring Argentina hosting Canada on June 20. The U.S. will play Panama on June 27 at the stadium. The process of installing grass in the stadium will start following the completion of Saturday’s MLS match between Atlanta United and Houston.

Saturday will mark two years out from Atlanta’s opening match in the World Cup. City officials have been working on many things since the match sites were announced on Feb. 4.

Among the tasks:

  • Working with FIFA on Atlanta’s event spaces and footprint;
  • Choosing team base camps and training sites. There are several places that can be used, including Atlanta United, Georgia State, Kennesaw State and Pace Academy.
  • Working on space allocations at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • Working with FIFA on their lodging accommodations.
  • Preliminary conversations on transport.
  • Early planning for the volunteer program.
  • Marketing of city assets.

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 0

April 6 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

April 14 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

April 20 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

April 27 Atlanta United 1, Chicago 1

May 4 Minnesota 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte Independence 0 in U.S. Open Cup

May 11 D.C. United 3, Atlanta United 2

May 15 Cincinnati 1, Atlanta United 0

May 18 Atlanta United 1, Nashville 1

May 21 Atlanta United 0 (5), Charleston 0 (4) in U.S. Open Cup

May 25 LAFC 1, Atlanta United 0

May 29 Atlanta United 3, Miami 1

June 2 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 2

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.