18 May 2023, 18:06

World Cup 2026 teams to be based in 'clusters': Infantino

LOS ANGELES, May 18, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Teams at the expanded 2026 World Cup in

the United States, Canada and Mexico will be based in regional clusters
during the early rounds to ease travel, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said
on Wednesday.

Speaking in Los Angeles to unveil the official logo and branding for the
tournament, Infantino said the move was prompted by the scale of the 2026

For the first time the next World Cup will include 48 teams -- up from 32 --
and will be co-hosted by three countries, another first.

"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."

Infantino said travel, and the move towards basing teams in regions, had been
discussed at a meeting in Doha last week of the 32 coaches involved in last
year's World Cup.

"This was one of the advantages of the World Cup in Qatar, where a player,
one hour after the game, was in his bed," he said.

"(In 2026) there will be some travel involved but we will coordinate that and
make sure that it will be the best possible conditions for the teams."

Infantino meanwhile hopes the tournament can build on the success of the 1994
finals in the United States, which helped establish Major League Soccer in
North America.

Asked what he wanted the legacy of 2026 to be, Infantino told AFP: "That
soccer will be the number one sport in North America."

Infantino's remarks came as FIFA rolled out a "green carpet" for celebrities
and former players at the Griffith Observatory overlooking Los Angeles.

The gala event was held to unveil the official branding for the 2026

Among the guests was former US international Alexi Lalas, one of the stars of

Lalas backed Infantino's pledge to base teams in regions.

"At the risk of 'grumpy old-manning it', it's not like these guys are sitting
in the middle seat in economy on a budget airline or anything," Lalas told
AFP. "They're on charter aircraft all over the place.

"But having said that, we're obviously talking about six-hour trips, time-
zone changes. For a lot of players around the world that fundamentally
changes the competition, so a regional type of situation makes sense."


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