The England team that should play at the 2026 World Cup
England's 2022 World Cup came to a heartbreaking end in the quarter-finals as they were beaten 2-1 by France.
A rare Harry Kane mishap from 12 yards sealed their fate with Les Bleus set to take on Morocco for a place in the World Cup final.
While France are a serious force, many feel that this was a huge missed opportunity given the holders' vulnerabilities and the teams remaining in the competition. Despite the miracles they've worked, many would've fancied England to bypass the first-ever African World Cup semi-finalists and progress into football's biggest game for a chance to win the ultimate prize.
However, this is just the start for this England side, one that has impressed at the last three major tournaments. Their current squad is blessed with an exciting young core and these talents are poised to lead the Three Lions in North America four years down the line. But how different will the rest of the team look?
Here's 90min's predicted England starting XI at the 2026 World Cup.
England's potential 2026 World Cup starting XI
GK: Jordan Pickford - Pickford once again barely put a foot wrong at a major tournament and he'll continue to operate as England's number one until his form falls off a cliff. The Three Lions are blessed with a couple of promising young goalkeepers, including Aaron Ramsdale who'll surely get his chance further down the line, but Pickford will be tough to displace.
RB: Reece James - Kyle Walker should play at Euro 2024 but the 2026 World Cup will probably be a tournament too far for the veteran defender. James was poised to start for England in Qatar after emerging as one of the world's premier right-backs but he picked up a serious knee injury in November which ruled him out of the competition. Should he continue on his current trajectory, James will be a shoo-in on the right side of England's defence four years down the line.
CB: John Stones - The Manchester City defender continues to perform at an extremely high level and he'll be 32 by the time the 2026 World Cup rolls around. Stones should be in the starting XI but the likes of Ben White, Fikayo Tomori and Trevoh Chalobah are names to keep an eye out for.
CB: Levi Colwill - Harry Maguire's lack of pace could compromise him further later on in his career and we're going to go bold with our predicted partner for Stones in 2026. Chelsea academy starlet Colwill has barely got a taste of the highest level, but he has all the makings of a superstar defender. Colwill performed superbly out on loan for Huddersfield last season before joining Brighton on a temporary basis in 2022. He could be the guy to replace Thiago Silva at Stamford Bridge and eventually function as the cornerstone of England's defence.
LB: Luke Shaw - The Three Lions currently aren't blessed with an array of talent down the left side of defence and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Shaw competing with Ben Chilwell for a starting berth in 2026. Shaw once again performed superbly for the Three Lions in Qatar and it'll be interesting to see how his Manchester United career transpires under Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman signed Tyrell Malacia in the summer who has the potential to develop into United's starting left-back which could hinder Shaw's England chances.
CM: Declan Rice - The West Ham skipper possesses an infectious personality and he'll undoubtedly be a staple of the England set-up for years to come. This World Cup, and his performance against France, in particular, dispelled any doubts over Rice's competence at the very highest level. He's a superstar midfielder.
CM: Kalvin Phillips - Gareth Southgate is a huge admirer of Phillips, who played such an important role in England's Euro 2020 campaign. A lack of minutes due to injury meant he missed out on the Qatari World Cup, but he should be back in England's plans in 2023. Should his Manchester City career ignite (it may take a couple of years to do so) it'll be hard to ignore the Yorkshire Pirlo in four years' time.
CM: Jude Bellingham - Europe's elite will be harrassing Borussia Dortmund in the wake of the World Cup following Bellingham's stellar campaign in Qatar. He's been the standout midfielder of the tournament not called Sofyan Amrabat and he's poised to move on for huge money in 2023. The teenager possesses everything you want in a midfielder and showed on many occasions in Qatar that he's a potential future England captain. It's scary to think how good he'll be in 2026.
RW: Bukayo Saka - Wilton Sampaio's nemesis was brilliant in Qatar and has developed at an exponential rate in north London with Arsenal, who may well emerge as a dominant force under Mikel Arteta. The sky is the limit for Saka, whose trajectory would suggest he might be one of the world's very best wingers by 2026 - if he isn't already.
ST: Harry Kane - The England skipper has previously spoken of his desire to replicate Tom Brady's longevity and he should still have a few good years left in him by the time the next World Cup rolls around. We've seen Kane evolve from a superstar number nine into a majestic multi-faceted forward and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the 29-year-old drop deeper and deeper as he reaches the twilight of his career.
LW: Phil Foden - Much of the discourse regarding England in Qatar surrounded the brilliant Foden, arguably the Three Lions' most gifted footballer. Southgate eventually made room for the Manchester City playmaker down the left flank where he starred against Wales and Senegal. Foden is obscenely talented but his 'best' position isn't yet known. So while he'll undoubtedly be a part of England's 2026 World Cup squad, the role he performs will be dependent on who's in charge and his evolution at the Etihad.