FIFA unveils 2026 World Cup brand: how it compares to previous tournaments

On a warm evening in Los Angeles, from the picturesque Griffith Observatory overlooking the Hollywood Sign, FIFA President Gianni Infantino revealed the mark of the 2026 World Cup.

It is a milestone in the preparation for any major tournament. The carnival-inspired trophy for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the red, white and blue shield for the 1994 World Cup in the United States; the color scheme, logo, and mascot become tied to the tournament they represent. It builds anticipation and fuels excitement. This iteration, however, seems less inspired.

Unlike the stars and stripes that adorned the iconic 1994 logo, nothing screams America about this design. According to FIFA, this is inclusive, simple and highly customizable branding. It’s a logo that can easily be transferred and used on merchandise, and there will be unique color patterns and slogans for each host city.

AthleticismInstant analysis of:

Is that it, really? Is this the real World Cup logo? The biggest sporting event in the world?

Yes that’s it. — Maurer

How does this compare to previous World Cup logos?

This one is decidedly more bland and lacks a lot of the character of previous editions. The tournament has been an exercise in branding since the first edition in 1930, when a local Uruguayan artist painted the event’s official poster, a relatively abstract rendering of a prone goalkeeper in flight. It was an instant hit and over the ensuing decades the iconography and visual identity of the World Cup became increasingly prominent.

There was Mexico in 1970, when famed designer Lance Wyman took to design, creating a concentric visual identity, with interlocking numbers and letters. The official tournament logo and poster, a simple graphic representation of the brand new Adidas Telstar, helped make this ball the most instantly recognizable piece of sports equipment imaginable. Other tournaments shone too – Italia ’90 gave things an almost abstract edge, while the 1994 World Cup was decidedly more… obvious. Red, white and blue, with a soccer ball passing in front of the red and white bars of the American flag. Years later, the design remains iconic.

“Usually we weren’t very subtle, were we?” Alan Rothenberg, then president of US Soccer, said Athleticism Last year. “You look at what we did with the logo – red, white, blue, with the American flag and the soccer ball going through it, rather than something abstract. We were kind of punching people between the eyes.

More recently, tournament logos have felt a bit standardized, with the general outline of the logo being that of the Jules Rimet Trophy.

They have always incorporated cultural elements from the host country. In Qatar, for example, the logo was designed to look like a woolen shawl, a traditional item of clothing in the region. The Russia World Cup in 2018 featured bold colors of red, gold, black and blue. FIFA said it was inspired by centuries-old techniques seen in world-renowned Russian art dating back centuries.

The logo for this upcoming tournament, which will be held in three different countries, looks like a generic exercise in “clean” design, the kind of thing we see a lot these days. — Maurer

So why did they do it this way?

FIFA answered questions on Wednesday during a session with national media. The impetus behind the design, one manager said, was to make the brand inclusive, simple and highly customizable across multiple platforms. They wanted to put the World Cup trophy at the forefront of the logo, FIFA said, and they wanted to create a system that could be reused in future tournaments and feel “iconic” for all age groups.

The simplicity of the design is a feature of FIFA, not a flaw. They see the plain-Jane logo plastered on sweatshirts, caps, shoes, on the front of tournament jerseys…everywhere. There are variations of the logo where the “26” is divided into 16 grids, representing the 16 host cities, and other iterations where the numbers contain 48 panels, representing the tournament teams. FIFA has also created unique color palettes and design inserts for each host city. The basic logo, however, will remain the same.

FIFA representatives said the logo design process was led by their own internal branding team, with input from a number of consultancy agencies, although they declined to name them. —Maurer

What other path could they have taken?

Canada has never hosted a World Cup, unlike the United States and Mexico, and the 1970 and 1994 tournaments both featured some of the best designs in the competition’s history. FIFA might have considered retreading or re-imagining some of these earlier visual identities, or perhaps creating a different version of the logo for each host country. Instead, what he deployed seems bland and lifeless. Who knows, maybe it will grow on us. We will see. —Maurer

What they say

CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani said Wednesday’s kick-off event was “a bit of a kick-off, apart from the towns kick-off we had last year.”

“It’s really the first before 2026, and there will be many more after that. Obviously the cities are really excited, really behind that,” he added. “They were selected the year last and now they’re going to dress up with the colors and all that kind of stuff. And so it’s really exciting. And I think obviously we have a lot of work to do moving forward, but it’s kind of like I’m starting now.

Montagliani also touched on the prospect of the United States and Mexico hosting the 2027 Women’s World Cup.

“It’s a process. Obviously, it’s exciting. Two countries that you know, have facilities and have organizational history. For now, this is just the beginning,” he said. “So there is a whole process behind it, we are behind it, CONCACAF is behind it. And let’s see what happens.

Montagliani added that discussions had taken place regarding the Women’s World Cup coverage issues. “(The talks) started, I have to say, on a bit of a different level,” he said. “So it’s moving and I think it’s important here to understand where we’re coming from. We’re investing in women’s football, we’re investing in women’s football.

Infantino spoke about the safety and security issues for the 2026 tournament.

“Qatar is small, especially compared to North America. We organized this with the authorities, the local authorities, but also the police authorities of all the participating countries. We have created a really, very strong and powerful network of cooperative relations and everything has gone very, very well in terms of security during the World Cup. I’m sure the same will happen here,” he said.

“We come here to bring happiness, passion and joy to our people, to the local people of America and North America, to our communities around the world who already live here, as well as to the fans coming from abroad…. We are already working now, three years in advance, with the police authorities, the governmental authorities of the three countries and of those who will participate, to make sure that it will be peaceful.

Required reading

(Photo: Harold Cunningham/FIFA via Getty Images)

Leave a Comment