World Cup 2026 groups to be based mostly in ‘clusters’: Infantino

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LOS ANGELES:

Groups on the expanded 2026 World Cup in the US, Canada and Mexico can be based mostly in regional clusters throughout the early rounds to ease journey, FIFA president Gianni Infantino mentioned on Wednesday.

Talking in Los Angeles to unveil the official brand and branding for the match, Infantino mentioned the transfer was prompted by the dimensions of the 2026 finals.

For the primary time the subsequent World Cup will embrace 48 groups — up from 32 — and can be co-hosted by three international locations, one other first.

“The challenges would be the complete logistics round it,” Infantino mentioned. “It is a continent — three international locations and never three small international locations both — three huge international locations.

“The distances, the time zones, the climatic variations too — altitude in Mexico, sea stage in different components.

“So for us it is vital to create the fitting surroundings for the groups and the followers to be put in the absolute best circumstances.

“Which means not having to journey an excessive amount of, particularly at first. So we’ll create some clusters the place groups can be based mostly relying on the draw after which they’ll play their video games in that individual cluster.”

Infantino mentioned journey, and the transfer in direction of basing groups in areas, had been mentioned at a gathering in Doha final week of the 32 coaches concerned in final yr’s World Cup.

“This was one of many benefits of the World Cup in Qatar, the place a participant, one hour after the sport, was in his mattress,” he mentioned.

“(In 2026) there can be some journey concerned however we’ll coordinate that and ensure that it is going to be the absolute best circumstances for the groups.”

Infantino in the meantime hopes the match can construct on the success of the 1994 finals in the US, which helped set up Main League Soccer in North America.

Requested what he needed the legacy of 2026 to be, Infantino advised AFP: “That soccer would be the primary sport in North America.”

Infantino’s remarks got here as FIFA rolled out a “inexperienced carpet” for celebrities and former gamers on the Griffith Observatory overlooking Los Angeles.

The gala occasion was held to unveil the official branding for the 2026 match.

Among the many visitors was former US worldwide Alexi Lalas, one of many stars of 1994.

Lalas backed Infantino’s pledge to base groups in areas.

“On the threat of ‘grumpy old-manning it’, it isn’t like these guys are sitting within the center seat in financial system on a finances airline or something,” Lalas advised AFP. “They’re on constitution plane far and wide.

“However having mentioned that, we’re clearly speaking about six-hour journeys, time-zone modifications. For lots of gamers around the globe that basically modifications the competitors, so a regional kind of state of affairs is sensible.”

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