England youngsters who could break into the 2026 World Cup squad
With England’s hopes of 2022 World Cup glory now over, those in charge at the Football Association will start casting glances forwards to 2026.
Some of the current crop of players may have tasted their final World Cup action, but behind them, there are plenty of exciting young players who will hope to force their way into the plans of Gareth Southgate – or whoever is in charge by then.
Here are ten players who are in line for that breakthrough.
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After a dazzling debut campaign on loan with Huddersfield last year, Levi Colwill’s momentum has stalled somewhat after his temporary switch to Brighton. He played 102 minutes of Premier League action before the World Cup – 90 of which came in one game.
That being said, the Chelsea centre-back is still widely seen as one of England’s most intriguing prospects in his position and he is expected to be a top-flight regular well before the 2026 World Cup arrives.
Young defenders have struggled to break into the England setup of late – Fikayo Tomori didn’t even make the last squad despite being a Serie A winner – but Colwill should be optimistic of his chances of making it.
Cole Palmer has around three years to enjoy his own Phil Foden coming-of-age story.
Comfortably more talented than his tally of 99 Premier League minutes this season would suggest, Palmer has made the bold call of following in Foden’s footsteps and sticking around at Manchester City, preferring to learn under Pep Guardiola rather than heading out on loan.
There’s no denying that it worked for Foden – can Palmer pull it off as well?
Hopes have been high for Omari Hutchinson for a while now. Long seen as one of the best products of the Arsenal academy in recent memory, the teenager made the bold choice to swap the Emirates for Stamford Bridge as he joined Chelsea in the summer.
The 19-year-old has been sensational at Premier League 2 level and has caught Graham Potter’s eye, making the senior bench three times before the World Cup break and dazzling during a friendly against Aston Villa.
Hutchinson has previously accepted a call-up from Jamaica but is yet to lock in his international allegiance, so England still have time to convince him to come back.
Of all the names on this list, Harvey Elliott’s involvement in the 2026 World Cup seems the most certain. He’s already a regular for Liverpool at 19 years old and is still going from strength to strength.
Well-known at St. George’s Park from his time with the Under-16, Under-17 and Under-21 sides, Elliott’s talent has been clear for years and he may have already appeared for the seniors were it not for some rotten luck with injuries.
Midfield is perhaps the strongest area among England’s next generation and Elliott is one of the stand-out names.
Elliott’s Liverpool teammate, Fabio Carvalho was included in Portugal’s preliminary World Cup squad but didn’t make the final cut. Instead of being demoted to the Under-21 team, he sent an abrupt text message to the Portuguese FA informing them he did not want to be considered for junior call-ups anymore.
Carvalho, who represented England from Under-15 to Under-18 level, hasn’t formally closed any doors just yet but his behaviour may have closed them for him, giving England hope of welcoming him back into the fold.
Injuries to teammates have afforded Carvalho plenty of minutes under Jurgen Klopp. A senior international call-up must be coming soon, but just which team he’ll be playing for remains a mystery.
There were some calls for Marcus Edwards to make England’s squad this time round. Southgate didn’t agree but there may be no way to ignore the winger when 2026 rolls around.
Currently 24, Edwards hardly qualifies as a youngster but his impact on English football is still in its infancy. Released by Tottenham in 2019, his last appearance for any England side was at Under-20 level that year, but it’s hard to believe that will be his last.
Edwards is shining for Sporting CP at the highest level in Portugal and has regularly been linked with a return to the Premier League. If he seals that move, his chances of a call-up will double.
Juventus being one of the most underwhelming teams in Europe this year has forced Massimiliano Allegri to hand chances to 19-year-old winger Samuel Iling-Junior who, in limited minutes, has not disappointed.
The former Chelsea youngster bagged two assists across 43 minutes of Serie A and Champions League action before the World Cup, proving that he can hang with top-flight talents at this early stage in his career.
Are we in the early stages of a Jadon Sancho-esque rise to prominence? It’s hard to say, but if we are, an England cap could be right around the corner.
Four years before this World Cup, Jude Bellingham was yet to play a minute of senior football and was still being primed for his break-out.
Four years before the next World Cup, brother Jobe is already earning fringe minutes in the Championship for Birmingham.
Comparisons between the brothers and unnecessary and yet completely unavoidable. Jude was one of the stars of England’s stint in Qatar and all eyes will be on how close Jobe comes to replicating that impact.
If there’s one position in which England needn’t worry for the next decade, it’s at right-back. Reece James and Trent Alexander-Arnold are still in the infancy of their careers, but behind them are stars like Tino Livramento waiting to break through.
Livramento was an absolute star of the 2021/22 campaign following his move from Chelsea to Southampton, quickly proving himself as one of the country’s most promising prospects in any position. Unfortunately, a nasty knee injury took him down in April 2022 and he is yet to be seen since.
Should Livramento recover as expected, it seems almost impossible that he won’t be a genuine contender for a starting spot by the time 2026 rolls around.
Working under Vincent Kompany at Burnley has done wonders for Manchester City loanee Taylor Harwood-Bellis, who is a key starter in the heart of the Championship title-hopefuls’ defence.
The 20-year-old centre-back is on his fourth loan away from the Etihad but is starting to yield real results, looking like a machine under Kompany and undeniably earning himself some Premier League minutes next season.
Three full years of top-tier football would give Harwood-Bellis plenty of time to prove he deserves a spot in the next World Cup squad.
England will be considered failures if we don’t win Euro 2024
England defender Harry Maguire has revealed he will head to Euro 2024 with the mindset that anything less than winning the competition will be a failure.
The Three Lions have cemented their status as a strong tournament team over the last half-decade under the guidance of Gareth Southgate.
After reaching the FIFA World Cup semi-finals in 2018, England were only denied victory at Euro 2020 on penalties against Italy in the final.
There were high hopes that they could go all the way at the 2022 World Cup over the winter, but were narrowly beaten by reigning champions France in a hard-fought quarter-final.
England kicked off their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win at Italy, and speaking to the press post-match, Maguire revealed his ambitions for glory in Germany next summer.
“I think for me, at my age as well, 30 years old now, I’m with a mindset of, ‘If we don’t win the tournament, it’s been a failure’,” he said.
“We’ve got to qualify first – I mean it’s a tough group, [but] we’ve come here and got an amazing result.
“But that’s my mindset. I’ve been at three major tournaments now and I’ve come so close. I believe we have the players to win it. We went into Qatar wanting to win the tournament. So ultimately, when we get knocked out, as a squad we’re disappointed. The performances were good, we kept the most clean sheets at the tournament, we were one of the top goalscorers despite going out in the quarter-final.
“I’m speaking on behalf of myself but I know from speaking to the other lads as well, they were really pleased that Gareth stayed [on as manager]. We’ve built something as a group and he’s been the leader of it. He’s been the one who’s given us hope and given us belief as a country to be successful in these major tournaments and, for sure, it benefits us for us for him to be in charge.
“These big tournaments are decided on the finest margins. We played really well in the World Cup and ultimately, we got knocked out by a good French team. A French team that we believe we can take on and if we play them ten times, we would give them a good game ten times and probably win more than we lose.
“However, they’ve proven over the years that they manage to get the job done better than England do. So it’s something that we’re working on. We have so much talent and so many young players coming through.”
Maguire recognised that England were simply beaten at the 2022 World Cup by a more experienced and successful international side in France.
Despite reservations over Didier Deschamps, the 54-year-old has an incredible tournament record – to have won one final and lost two others is a far better record than most other coaches in the history of football.
England hope to be on a similar path with Southgate, but as Maguire insisted, they need to win a tournament if they’re to be remembered fondly and without tinges of regret.
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