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10 Leeds players that could make the 2026 World Cup

One of the greatest aspects as a fan of club football at a World Cup is seeing your own team’s players perform on the biggest stage the sport has to offer. It gives you a second team to route for, as seeing your players do well makes you feel an odd sense of pride knowing that a World Cup winner is in your team’s ranks.

Leeds United haven’t had much luck in terms of representatives at the Qatar World Cup. Only Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson (both USA) and Rasmus Kristensen (Denmark) have been selected by their respective national coaches (discounting Daniel James who is out on loan at Fulham), which ranks Leeds 4th bottom in terms of Premier League club representatives ahead of only Bournemouth, Southampton and Crystal Palace who all sit on two.

However, Leeds does bolster a young and upcoming squad and by the time the 2026 World Cup rolls around in America, Canada, and Mexico, you would expect Leeds to have a fair few more joining the fight for the Jules Rimet trophy. However, who could these people be?

This list discounts the three Leeds players at Qatar and Dan James, as they will almost certainly be returning in 4 years, Adams and Aaronson especially given the free route into the tournament. Instead, I’ll be looking at the current Leeds side and giving my thoughts on who else may be heading to North America in 2026.

Illan Meslier – France

Arguably, Meslier missed out on a depth role in the French squad that has gone to Qatar, given that Didier Deschamps opted for veteran Steve Mandanda and West Ham’s 2nd choice Alphonse Areola. What isn’t up for debate is that Meslier is one of the most exciting young keepers in Europe and is a future France number one. He’ll be 26 come the next World Cup, and with extra Premier League experience under his belt, he’ll be battling Mike Maignan for the goalkeeper shirt in 2026.

Kristoffer Klaesson and Leo Hjelde – Norway

Despite it being unknown how European teams will qualify for the 2026 World Cup, with 48 teams heading to the tournament paired with Erling Haaland’s existence, surely Norway has to qualify for their first World Cup since 1998. If they do, don’t be surprised to see this pairing called up. Norway’s youngest goalkeeper for their recent Nations League games was 32, and whilst Klaesson is destined to be number 2, or even number 3 at Leeds, he showed against Wolves last season that he has a bit of quality. He may not be the first choice, but I see him filling out the roster in goal. As for 19-year-old Hjelde, he’s impressed and has been solid every time he wears the Leeds shirt. By 2026, the then 22-year-old will be an, albeit inexperienced, but welcome burst of youth on the Norway bench.

Pascal Struijk – Netherlands

Struijk is already in the eye line of Louis van Gaal, having been picked in the last two provisional squads for the Netherlands, so barring a drastic change in form, or Holland failing to qualify, this is the easiest pick on the list. The centre-back turned left-back will turn 27 during the 2026 World Cup and will look to challenge the likes of Nathan Ake and Jurrien Timber for that final spot at the back alongside van Djik and de Ligt.

Robin Koch – Germany

This will most likely be Koch’s only chance at appearing in a World Cup, given the centre-back will turn 30 in July 2026. With the likes of Nico Schlotterbeck, Armel Bella-Kotchap and Lucas Klostermann all being either of similar age or younger than Koch being picked ahead of him, it’ll be tough to break back into the side. He may not start, but if he establishes himself as a solid option at the back over the next 3 and a half years, he’s in with a chance.

Charlie Cresswell – England

Could this be a long shot? Who knows, but what I do know from this World Cup so far is that Gareth Southgate loves a target man from corners. And there isn’t much better, in the Championship at least, than Millwall’s 2nd top goal scorer this season. The Leeds loanee has played regularly for the England Under-21s and is a commanding presence at the back. Turning 24 during the 2026 competition, don’t be surprised if Cresswell makes it into the side.

Luis Sinisterra – Colombia

Sinisterra featured in four games in Columbia’s qualifying campaign and scored two goals against Mexico in one half. By all means, if Sinisterra wasn’t injured and, probably, more importantly, Columbia had qualified for the World Cup, Sinisterra would have been in Qatar right now. He’s still only 23 right now, so if Columbia does make it in 2026, expect the tricky winger to be a mainstay in the side.

Wilfried Gnonto – Italy

Similar to Sinisterra before him, Gnonto has been getting in his caps for Italy despite only just turning 19 years old, therefore if Italy qualified for Qatar’s World Cup, he’d be making a difference off of the bench there. Gnonto can only improve, so despite only being 22 when the 2026 World Cup comes around, expect Azzurri’s youngest goal scorer to be getting World Cup minutes if Italy reaches the tournament.

Crysencio Summerville – Netherlands

Leeds’ star boy is making waves in the Premier League with 4 goals in his last 4 games, including winners against Liverpool and Bournemouth. Whilst Leeds fans may be desperate for a new striker in January, perhaps the solution is already wearing the number 10 for the whites. And in a Holland side who have called up Vincent Jansson, Wout Weghorst and Luuk de Jong for the 2022 World Cup, surely Summerville should be a shoo-in for a starting spot in 2026 with the likes of Memphis Depay ageing, leaving a front two of Summerville and Cody Gakpo…just like it should’ve been domestically this season, right?

And finally, Sam Greenwood – England

This is probably the most outlandish and unlikely pick of the bunch. In 2026, Declan Rice and Mason Mount will be 27, Jude Bellingham will be 23, James Maddison will be 29, Conor Gallagher will be 25 and Kalvin Phillips will be 31. Not to mention the plethora of talent in midfield currently in the Under-21s such as Morgan Gibbs-White, Harvey Elliott, Oliver Skipp and Jacob Ramsey. Gareth Southgate has midfield talent coming out of his nose to the point where 20-year-old Sam Greenwood seems like a heavy outsider. However, the versatility that Greenwood has at such a young age is unmatched. He can play any role in the middle of the park and has experience playing on the wings. When it comes to depth players in World Cup squads, you need people that will fill any role needed, and by the time 2026 comes around, the then 24-year-old will have the experience necessary to do a vital job. Plus, he’s a set-piece specialist and can be trusted to take set plays in high-pressure moments. At the moment he has no chance, but a lot can change in 3 and a half years, and I have faith that Greenwood can break in by the time the 2026 World Cup comes around.

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