Believe it or not, the start of qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is upon us.
Paraguay hosts Peru in the first of three games on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. eastern to open World Cup qualifying in South America.
Reigning World Cup champions Argentina host Ecuador at 8 p.m. to kick off their road to the World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Colombia will also take on Venezuela on Thursday at 7 p.m. Venezuela’s squad features two Philadelphia Union teammates in Jose Martinez and Jesus Bueno. Martinez has 23 caps for his country since making his debut in 2021 while Bueno is in the senior national team squad for the first time. Uruguay plays Chile at 7 p.m. and Brazil hosts Bolivia in the other qualifier games on the docket.
The second of 18 games will be played on Tuesday. All first and second round qualifiers will be broadcast live on the streaming app Fanatiz.
South America (Conmebol) will have six qualifiers and one team make the playoff tournament.
The U.S., Mexico and Canada have already punched their tickets as hosts of the 2026. The qualification tournament for Central and North America (Concacaf) begins in March 2024. Three additional spots and two playoff tournament spots will be up for grabs.
Asia (AFC) will begin qualification for eight spots and one playoff tournament entry in October.
Africa (CAF) will begin qualification for nine spots and one playoff tournament entry on November 13.
Europe (UEFA) begins their qualification tournament in March 2025 and will have 16 teams make the final tournament field.
Oceania (OFC) opens qualification in September 2024 for one guaranteed qualification spot and one playoff tournament berth.
Philadelphia will be one of 16 host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The tournament field will be the first to include 48 teams, up from 32 teams in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.