Planning Your Ultimate World Cup Adventure: My Qatar 2022 Experience and What to Expect for 2026

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Planning your ultimate world cup adventure
Curator’s statement

I attended the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Doha, Qatar. Doha and Qatar have stunning desert and city landscapes that shouldn’t be missed whether it’s for a quick stopover en route to another destination or a longer stay in Qatar. In this second post in a multi-part series, I’ll discuss my experience at the 2022 World Cup, some important differences to consider between the 2022 and 2026 World Cups, various ticket packages and considerations, and strategies to get yourself there.

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Where to stay in Qatar

The LINE LA

Industrial property in Koreatown with funky-chic, individually-designed rooms.

Fora Perks
  • $25 food / beverage credit.

  • Welcome treat in room on arrival.

  • Upgrade & guaranteed late check-out.

The George Hotel

Indulge in historic elegance at The George Hotel, where charming accommodations, maritime views and a central location on the Isle of Wight come together to offer a delightful and memorable stay in this picturesque coastal town.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage or spa credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Hyatt Centric Santa Clara Silicon Valley

Hyatt Centric Santa Clara Silicon Valley is a modern and vibrant hotel, perfectly situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, providing tech-savvy travelers with a dynamic and convenient stay.

Fora Perks
  • Hotel / Resort credit.

  • Welcome amenity.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out, whenever possible.

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The 2022 Experience and what to Expect for 2026 in Qatar

Bracket 2026

Brief Hotel Review:

All of the recommended hotels are incredible and were selected for their proximity to some of the stadiums hosting World Cup games and public transportation to the stadiums. As the 2026 tournament approaches, matches and logistics of getting to each stadium will be announced, which could impact your lodging choices, but these will all be virtually certain to have easy and efficient access to the stadiums hosting games in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York/New Jersey.

My Experience at the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar

There’s no experience quite like the World Cup. Regardless of whether you’re a die-hard fan of a particular national team or the more casual observer that enjoys watching a game or two on TV every four years, nothing compares to the magic, buzz, and energy that pumps through a city and country when they’re hosting a World Cup match. To experience first hand the passion of fans and drama of every game is something I think anyone who has even a moderate interest in futbol/soccer should prioritize attending at least once in their life.

I was fortunate enough to attend four games during my time in Qatar and was even more fortunate to witness some of the most dramatic and historic matches of the tournament. I’ll admit – I’m a fanatical supporter of Argentina and Brazil (having seen both teams play on three continents) I waited longer to buy my tickets to ensure I’d be able to see both play later on in the tournament. (You can read more about my full experience at the World Cup in Qatar in this post). The specific games I attended were:

Quarter-Final: Brazil v. Croatia at Education City Stadium

Quarter-Final: Argentina v. Netherlands at Lusail Stadium

Quarter-final: Morocco v. Portugal at Al Thumama Stadium

Semi-final: Argentina v. Croatia at Lusail Stadium

Important Differences between the 2022 and 2026 tournaments:

There are two key differences in the tournament set up in 2026 that will likely guide how you should approach which games to attend and your ticket-purchasing strategy.

The most glaring difference in 2026 is that there will be three host nations – Canada, Mexico, and the United States – instead of just one. Similarly, there will be matches held in 16 cities across the continent: Toronto, Vancouver, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle. This will greatly impact your ability to see multiple games across a few days, as well as how much you should be budgeting for travel between cities if you are planning to see multiple games. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you navigate it all!

The second important change is the size of the tournament, as there will be 48 teams instead of the traditional 32 to accommodate the growing interest and level of talent in futbol/soccer globally. This means that there will be more groups in the group stage.

To accommodate these stark differences, FIFA plans to have the top two teams from each of the 12 groups advance to a round of 32, which is where the knockout stages will begin. This means that fans will have more chances to see their favorite teams in action as the total number of games will increase from 80 to 104. The bracket from the Round of 32 onward is expected to look like this.

As of the writing of this guide (November 2023), it is considered likely that the group stages and Round of 32 matches will be played in paired cities to minimize travel time for players and fans. Think of New York/New Jersey + Philadelphia, Seattle + Vancouver, and Monterrey + Houston as examples or possibilities. This will enable fans to see their preferred teams in geographically similar locations for this portion of the tournament, but once the Round of 16 commences, the time between games as well as the distances between stadiums are expected to increase greatly.

Tickets, packages, and strategies:

As of the 2022 World Cup, all tickets are issued via the official FIFA Mobile app. The QR codes cannot be screenshotted and transferred to another candidate as there were floating elements in the code that restricted transfer. For an additional layer of security, in 2022 stadium entrances in Qatar required you to show proof of your Hayya registration (which doubled as your formal entrance visa to Qatar and free pass to use the metro.)

There are two phases to World Cup tickets being released. Phase 1 is ticketing prior to the teams being announced for the group stage. This typically begins 10-12 months before the tournament begins. Phase 2 is “first come, first served” (think Ticketmaster for a normal event) and registration for the lottery after the teams have been placed into groups. Phase 2 ticket sales begin approximately 8-6 months before the tournament. Purchasing Phase 1 tickets is best for people who are located in (or don’t mind traveling to) a particular geographic region in North America and would like to experience attending a World Cup game regardless of the teams playing. Phase 2 is essential for fans who want to see a particular team regardless of geographic location or want to see the Round of 16, quarter or semi-finals, or the final.

There are three primary ways to get tickets for the World Cup: purchase the tickets yourself, purchase them through an airline/package deal, or purchase them through a travel advisor and their partners. I’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each to help you decide how best to approach this process!

Buying tickets yourself requires a lot of legwork and planning (and monitoring if you don’t get them initially) in order to secure your tickets. The single most important thing you can do is “register your interest” with FIFA here. Once you do that, you will get regular updates on how to get tickets for Phases 1 and 2 and register for the ticket lottery. There are often online queues of thousands of people attempting to buy tickets (think Taylor Swift's Eros Tour presale on steroids). It is incredibly competitive and you will more than likely not get tickets on your first try. If you aren’t absurdly lucky, you can sign up for the lottery, where tickets are occasionally randomly released to those who have expressed interest.

One very important note if you are trying to buy tickets for yourself is, yes, it is possible on sites like Stubhub or Viagogo, but there are three important things to know if you choose to do this. First, it is in breach of FIFA’s terms and conditions of ticketholdership. FIFA’s exact T&Cs for 2022 (section 6) about third-party sites are as follows:

Except as expressly authorised in writing by FIFA, or as permitted by these Terms of Use or the Terms of Sale, Ticket Holders shall not, whether physically or online, offer for sale, sell, offer at auctions, give away or otherwise transfer (“Transfer”) or attempt to Transfer, or engage a third party to facilitate or solicit offers for the Transfer of their Tickets under any circumstances, including any use or attempted use of Tickets for promotions, incentive programs, sweepstakes, contests, giveaways or raffles or as part of hotel, flight, hospitality or travel packages. Tickets that have been impermissibly transferred are not valid and may be cancelled at any time without notice. Tickets may also not be used for any advertising, promotional or other commercial purposes without FIFA’s express prior written authorisation.”

In addition to a violation of these conditions, you will likely pay hundreds of dollars more than the ticket value in service fees to these sites.

You should also note that you are only receiving someone else’s “guest(s)” tickets, so there is no guarantee that you will be sitting in the same seats, row, or even section if you are buying multiple tickets. This is due to FIFA's resale regulations that there is a “main ticket” and “guest tickets”. You would be receiving someone else's guest tickets (and trusting a random person to send that ticket to your FIFA mobile app). Main guest tickets are only available for resale on FIFA’s official resale website, which only allows for a 10% resale markup. If you choose to buy resale tickets, buy them with FIFA, though it is as competitive as the initial system.

Another fairly common option is to purchase packages through airlines or generic tour companies. Qatar Airways offered these packages in the lead-up to 2022, and you can anticipate US-based airlines and other tour operators to offer generic experiences. These packages often cost upwards of $5000-10000 or more and allow you to choose which types of games you want to see (i.e. group stage, quarter-final, semi-final, etc.). However, I don’t think they represent the kind of value unless you’re looking to say, “I went to the World Cup”. While you’ll have verified tickets, these packages will often get you stuck with games that are irrelevant or uninteresting to you. Additionally, they will pair them with hotels that are either far away from the stadium or represent a poor value for what you could get otherwise by booking it yourself. You can get a lot of legwork or outsized value with great accommodation options via a travel advisor.

Finally, purchasing tickets through a travel advisor and/or their partners is the most time-efficient way to get verified tickets while still being able to see the games of your choosing. This option is most recommended for Phase 2 tickets as you will be able to plan a more comprehensive trip with your advisor knowing the location, dates, and logistics of matches (and can toss around predictions for matches further along). You will need to schedule a meeting with your advisor as soon as possible after the group stage drawing is announced to chat through strategy and preferences. From there, they will be able to work directly on getting you tickets from FIFA (for example, if I’m in line for my tickets, I can also be in line for yours!) or working through an on-the-ground management partner to ensure you have tickets at the price and location of your choosing.

Bottom line: Book with an advisor unless you want to worry about monitoring sites, waiting in virtual lines, or scalpers on third-party sites or generic packages offering you some semblance of a World Cup experience for a price that isn’t worth the money.

How Much Do Tickets Cost?

Tickets to World Cup matches are expensive, but perhaps not as expensive as you might think. For most World Cups in the past, there are 4 categories of seats:

Category 1: In the middle of the pitch and most expensive.

Category 2: In the corners of the pitch and second-most expensive.

Category 3: Behind the goals and the least expensive.

Category 4: Reserved for country nationals (TBD if this will exist in 2026 and what requirements there might be, but it did exist in 2022.)

Personally, I sat mostly behind the goals for most of the games I attended in 2022. I got extremely lucky and was sitting behind the goal where the penalty shootouts were taking place for two games, so my personal preference will always be for behind the goal and I will never forget watching Lautauro Martinez scoring the game-deciding goal against the Netherlands from a stone’s throw away. (I teared up as I was writing that sentence.)

Below you will find the full 2018 pricing proposal from the North American hosts to FIFA. (Page 490) As of the time of writing (November 2023), I would expect these numbers to fluctuate because of the time that has passed, but it’s helpful to have a benchmark.

Getting to the World Cup on Any Budget:

There’s no doubt that the World Cup can be a pricey experience, but fortunately, with the right amount of time and planning, we can make sure you get there on a budget that achieves your World Cup dreams without bursting your bank account. While there is no way but to save your hard-earned money for tickets themselves, we can lock them in at Fora, working directly with FIFA or via our partner agencies. For everything else – and flights in particular – I am happy to help coach you on how to earn, redeem, and maximize your credit card and airline points and miles to make attending the World Cup an incredible – and financially attainable – experience. Get in touch with me so we can discuss how to maximize points and miles so you can cheer on your favorite team!

Need to Know

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Riker Pasterkiewicz

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This article is part of a series of posts about attending international sporting events.

Learn more about my experience at the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar in
this post.

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Qatar, the 2024 Olympics in Paris, 2026 World Cup in North America, 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, or other major international sporting event? Let’s start a conversation about how to get you there!