The different 2026 World Cup time zones could create a real headache for tournament organisers…
The Many 2026 World Cup Time Zones
On April 10th, 2017, the United States, Mexico, and Canada announced their joint bid for the 2026 World Cup. Voting took place on June 13th of the following year, at FIFA’s annual conference which took place in Moscow that same year. The ‘United Bid’, as it was known, faced Morocco in the final round of voting. Beating Morocco’s bid by 134 votes to 65, the United Bid’s win was comprehensive.
World’s football stage
It was also invaluable for both Canada and the US since both countries have taken steps to increase the support for soccer in their respective countries. With basketball, American football, and baseball the three most prominent sports in the United States, the MLS is seen as something of a ‘retirement league’ for European legends. However, the United Bid for the 2026 World Cup will hopefully change this impression and give the US (especially) the chance to showcase homegrown talent on the world’s stage.
America, Canada, and Mexico 2026: World Cup Times and Dates
Naturally, the 2026 World Cup times and dates are a must-know for any soccer fan. The 2026 World Cup times – and therefore schedule – will differ from previous years due to the format of the competition. For the first time, the World Cup will include 48 teams, in 12 groups of four teams. This has drawn criticism from some pundits and footballing authorities, but the FIFA Council did in fact unanimously agree to the new format.
The opening game of the 2026 World Cup will take place Sunday, May 31, 2026. This official date has been specified in 2023. The BID stated that the game will take place either at the
Rose Bowl Stadium in Los Angeles, or the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Update, June 16, 2022: the Rose Bowl, former candidate, has not been selected as a final host city. The SoFi Stadium, also in Los Angeles, will however be one of the final hosts. 23 host cities have been proposed by the three countries, and the list will be reduced to 16 as the tournament draws nearer. Update, June 16, 2022: see these final 2026 host cities.
The United States hosted the World Cup in 1994, and Mexico in 1970, but this will be the first time that matches are played across the entire continent of North America. Alongside added travel for different nations’ sides, it will also be one of the few World Cups that are affected by a time zone difference within the host nation(s). This means that the 2026 World Cup time zones will affect kick off times and travel logistics for fans, teams, and the media in different parts of North America.
2026 World Cup final
The final of the 2026 World Cup will take place at the MetLife Stadium in New York/New Jersey (with a proviso). The final takes place on Sunday, July 19, 2026.
America, Canada, and Mexico 2026 World Cup Time zones
The 2026 World Cup will span
four three different time zones in the USA, Canada, and Mexico. In the US and Canada, the time zones that cover each (proposed) host city are as follows:
- Eastern Standard Time (Eastern Daylight Time in June-July 2026)
- Central Standard Time (Central Daylight Time in June-July 2026)
Mountain Standard Time (Mountain Daylight Time in June-July 2026 except in Arizona)
- Pacific Standard Time (Pacific Daylight Time in June-July 2026)
There are some crossovers with the time zones in the US, such as in Florida. However, this doesn’t affect any of the stadiums in the US host cities. In Mexico, the following time zones will apply:
- Zona Centro – Central Standard Time (Central Daylight Time in June-July 2026, equivalent to America).
Each of these time zones is set a certain number of hours off UTC (Coordinated Universal Time/ Greenwich Mean Time), as specified below:
- Eastern Daylight Time is UTC/GMT-4
- Central Daylight Time is UTC/GMT-5
Mountain Daylight Time is UTC/GMT-6
- Pacific Daylight Time is UTC/GMT-7
As you can see from the above, the 2026 World Cup time zones will create a sense of jet lag for players and fans upon arrival. Similarly, there will be fairly large time zone differences between different parts of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. For example, those travelling from Toronto to San Francisco for a match will experience a zone difference of three hours.
Crucial matches simultaneously?
There will also be instances where games supposedly kicking off at the same time will actually be kicking off hours apart. This is another reason as to why the 2026 World Cup time zones will affect the competition –
three team groups can lead to a potential for match ‘doctoring’ (where teams know that certain results will guarantee another team’s elimination). Update March, 2023: the schedule of the group stage will consist of twelve groups of four teams. To prevent this from occurring, crucial 2026 World Cup matches have been played simultaneously in the past, but this may be more difficult to do due to the 2026 World Cup time zones differences.
Which Venues Fall into Each Time Zone?
The different 2026 World Cup time zones in North America cover every proposed venue in the tournament. In Mexico, every proposed stadium will fall under Central Daylight Time, but the same principle doesn’t apply in the USA and Canada.
The 2026 World Cup time zone of Eastern Daylight Time affects the following venues:
- BMO Field, Toronto (Capacity 45,500 for World Cup 2026)
Olympic Stadium, Montreal (Capacity 61,004 for World Cup 2026)
- Gillette Stadium, Boston (Capacity 65,878 for World Cup 2026)
- MetLife Stadium, New York/New Jersey (Capacity 76,125 for World Cup 2026)
- Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia (Capacity 69,796 for World Cup 2026)
M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore (Capacity 71,006 for World Cup 2026) Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati (Capacity 67,402 for World Cup 2026) FedEx Field, Maryland (Capacity 82,000 for World Cup 2026)
- Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta (Capacity 75,000 for World Cup 2026)
Camping World Stadium, Orlando (Capacity 65,000 for World Cup 2026)
- Hard Rock Stadium, Miami (Capacity 67,518 for World Cup 2026)
The 2026 WC time zone of Central Daylight Time affects the following venues:
Nissan Stadium, Nashville (Capacity 69,772 for World Cup 2026)
- Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City (Capacity 76,416 for World Cup 2026)
- AT&T Stadium, Dallas (Capacity 92,967 for World Cup 2026)
- NRG Stadium, Houston (Capacity 72,220 for World Cup 2026)
- Estadio Azteca, Mexico City (Capacity 87,523 for World Cup 2026)
- Estadio BBVA, Monterrey (Capacity 53,500 for World Cup 2026)
- Estadio Akron, Guadalajara (Capacity 49,850 for World Cup 2026)
The 2026 WC time zone of Mountain Daylight Time affects the following venues: Empower Field, Denver (Capacity 77,595 for World Cup 2026)
The 2026 WC time zone of Pacific Daylight Time affects the following venues:
- Levi’s Stadium, San Francisco Bay Area (Capacity 70,909 for World Cup 2026)
- SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles (Capacity 100,240 for World Cup 2026)
- Lumen Field, Seattle (Capacity 69,900 for World Cup 2026)
- BC Place Stadium, Vancouver (Capacity 59,841 for World Cup 2026)
The venues will be confirmed nearer to the start of the tournament.
Update June 16, 2022: the final 2026 World Cup venues have been selected. Including the candidate cities, there were initially four time zones. However, the final number of time zones during the 2026 FIFA World Cup is three.