what-england’s-2026-world-cup-line-up-could-look-like

England’s 2022 World Cup dream may be over, but with such a talented squad of young players, could 2026 be England’s year?

We’ve seen the younger players star during this tournament, with the likes of Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Declan Rice all star for their country.

In four years time, when the World Cup is set to take place across the United States of America, Canada and Mexico, all of these players will be four years older and four years more experienced.

Not to mention the fact that there are a whole plethora of other talented players who didn’t make the cut this time round, but who could certainly be involved in four years time.

Four years is a long time in football and there’s no guessing what state English football will be in, but given the trajectory of recent years and the pool of talent we know exists, it’s likely the Three Lions will be as good, if not a better side when the time comes.

We don’t even know if Gareth Southgate will still be in charge, which could certainly affect the line-up, given he has been faithful to a select group of players.

To take our mind off another disappointing exit from a major tournament, we’ve decided to guess what the starting line-up could look like in four years time at the next World Cup.

Of course, we’ll stick with the 4-3-3 set-up, and we’re predicting that we’ll be seeing a lot of familiar faces mainly due to the fact that there are a lot of young stars already in this England side.

Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford (32)

The Everton shot-stopper is currently only 28 years old which we all know is young for a goalkeeper, and we expect at 32, he’ll still be England’s first choice.

Having always produced in an England shirt across the 2018 World Cup and 2021 Euros, as well as this tournament, his experience will be vital and keepers generally do improve as they get older and gain more experience.

Whilst there’s talented back-ups in the form of Aaron Ramsdale and Nick Pope, it would have to take a remarkable drop-off from Pickford for either of them to take his place.

Right-Back – Reece James (26)

With England possessing no end of talented right-backs, the battle for the spot will likely be between Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

James may have been first choice this tournament if it wasn’t for his injury, especially given Kyle Walker came into the tournament not fully fit.

Kieran Trippier and Walker will be too old to compete with either of these two highly talented right-backs, but James’ all-round game may well be the reason he starts over Alexander-Arnold.

James missed out on this World Cup due to injury. Image: AlamyCentre-Back – Fikayo Tomori (28)

The AC Milan centre-back was unlucky to not make the squad this time around, but he wasn’t entrusted with any minutes in an England shirt by Southgate, which made it almost impossible for him to stake a real claim.

He’ll be 28 years old when this WC rolls around, he will have four more years of experience under his belt, and he will have surely earned enough minutes over the coming years across the Nations League and endless qualifiers to finally break into the side.

Centre-Back – John Stones (32)

He may be 32 when the next World Cup comes around, but as long as he keeps his conditioning in check, England will need experience at the back and John Stones will have had experience in an England from 2014 onwards.

There’s certainly younger centre backs that could develop into top-class defenders, such as Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi, Brighton’s Levi Colwill and Arsenal’s Ben White.

However, experience is key and Stones should still be there by the time 2026 comes around.

Left-Back – Ben Chilwell (29)

Having missed out on this World Cup due to a late injury suffered at Chelsea, Chilwell will be hoping he can finally get the chance to step up for his country over the next few years.

Luke Shaw has been a great servant for England across the years, and perhaps at 31, he may still be the number one choice, but Chilwell is a few years younger and could force his way into the England as a starter by then.

Other options include Leicester City’s James Justin or Crystal Palace’s Tyrick Mitchell, but the general consensus is that there is a lack of real depth in this position, which is why its likely Shaw and Chilwell will be fighting it out in four years time.

Defensive Midfield – Declan Rice (27)

Considering he’s already a starter at 23, surely he will be still be anchoring England’s midfield, only by then, we envision he’ll have plenty of Champions League experience under his belt, as it is likely he will move on from West Ham very soon.

That experience playing for a top club year in, year out will only see him improve and at 27, he’ll be near enough in his prime that he’ll be one of England’s star performers for sure.

Rice is already a brilliant player and is likely to only get better in the coming years. Image: AlamyCentral Midfield – Jude Bellingham (23)

This was a given right? Jude Bellingham is already a key player at 19, and in the coming years he’s only going to improve given that he is likely to be at the likes of a Real Madrid, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea or Manchester City.

The phrase ‘build a team around him’ seems to work here, as he will have developed not only technically, but physically in four years and will be England’s driving force from the heart of midfield.

Central Midfield – Jacob Ramsey (25)

Jacob Ramsey has broken into the Aston Villa side in recent years at a young age, and his ability to carry the ball and get into goal scoring positions could be vital for England if he continues to develop at his current rate.

He’s also physically very strong already and he should also develop that in the years to come.

England were very solid in central midfield in Qatar, especially once Jordan Henderson came in, but the Liverpool captain will be 35 by the next tournament.

Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher could take the place, or potentially even Harvey Elliott or another hot prospect, but we’re backing Ramsey to continue his impressive progression and be an international by the time we get to North America.

Right Wing – Bukayo Saka (24)

Considering he’s already producing performances like the one we saw against France, it stands to reason that Saka would be England’s first choice right winger in four years time.

Given his rate of improvement in recent years, he too will be develop physically, and with the way Arsenal are heading, he will have Champions League experience under his belt, as he continues to be a key player for club and country.

There’s plenty of other young talent, with Noni Madueke and Anthony Gordon both having impressed for their club sides already. Maybe England can do to France what Germany did to the Three Lions with Jamal Musiala and persuade Michael Olise to pick the country of his birth over the one he’s represented at youth level.

Left Wing – Phil Foden (26)

The main competition would be Marcus Rashford, who would be 29 at this point. His current deal at United runs out in the summer and he is likely to remain at his boyhood club, but Foden has to be in this team and he should grow into this England side over the years to hopefully finally show more of his City form in an England shirt.

Other players in this position could include his current teammate Jadon Sancho, who has a vast amount of potential that may come to realise before the next WC.

There was some late calls for Marcus Edwards to get called up for Qatar, after his Champions League performances against former side Tottenham Hotspur, and the Sporting winger could be included next time.

Likewise Eberechi Eze may eventually get a call up, having missed out on the Euros 18 months ago due to injury, unless he chooses to play for Nigeria.

Or maybe Borussia Dortmund can help out again by developing Jamie Bynoe-Gittens as quickly as they have Bellingham, after all the midfielder hadn’t even made his Birmingham City debut at the Russia World Cup.

Marcus Edwards impressed against Spurs and can play anywhere across the front. Image: AlamyStriker – Harry Kane (32)

This could certainly change, Kane will be just turning 33 in four years time, but his game has never been centred around pace and it’s very likely he could still be leading the line for England.

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious successor as it stands, Callum Wilson will likely be retired by then and behind him Tammy Abraham, Ivan Toney and Dominic Calvert-Lewin weren’t good enough to be Kane’s back up this time around.

That could change but it might need one of the generation behind them to have a hell of a three and a half years to displace Kane.

Folarin Balogun is the only one currently playing regular first team football, on loan at Ligue 1 side Reims from Arsenal, where he’s scored eight in 15.

Leeds United pair Joel Geldart and Sam Greenwood, Aston Villa’s Cameron Archer and Kane’s potential long term replacement at Spurs, Dane Scarlett are unlikely to be ready by the next World Cup.