Potentially exciting times lie ahead for England, with a plethora of world-class talent emerging, along with a generational phenomenon.

By the time they cross the Atlantic in 2026, the best of them will be hitting their peak and a momentous World Cup triumph awaits. 

GK: James Trafford

The Clarets stopper had an outstanding summer, keeping six shut-outs at the Euro U21 championships and saving a last-minute penalty in the final. It was a series of impressive displays that more-than-justified Burnley’s £15m outlay on a 21-year-old without a Premier League appearance to his name. 
With excellent distribution, an authoritative, calming presence, and shot-stopping skills right out of the top drawer, Trafford is well on his way to becoming a more complete package than Pickford or Ramsdale. 

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RB/ Reece James

A long-standing England trope is they are furnished with an abundance of quality right-backs, and even with Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier out of the picture in 2026, this is set to continue.
Tino Livramento could easily find himself first-choice if his stock carries on rising, while Rico Lewis and Trent Alexander-Arnold offer up the option of inverting into midfield. 
But it’s the Chelsea defender who gets the nod, so long as his injury problems lessen. 
James has every attribute to shine on the biggest stage, and then some. 

LB/ Ben Chilwell 

If the Three Lions are spoilt for choice on the other flank, at left-back there are notably fewer contenders to claim the shirt for the foreseeable future. 
Like his Chelsea team-mate James, Chilwell’s career to date has been beset with injury set-backs but a sustained run of games at the Bridge should see him reinstated in the England set-up, marginally ahead of Luke Shaw.  

CB/ Jarell Quansah 

Ideally, John Stones should inhabit the right-sided centre-back role, his experience proving invaluable at the back. In a perfect world, Stones would be the rock on which England’s World Cup success is founded. 
Given the Manchester City star’s prolonged struggles with fitness however, it’s a coin-flip as to whether he will remain a prominent figure going into his thirties, and so we turn to youth, and the exceptional promise of Liverpool’s Quansah.
Having recently gained his first Under 21 cap, the ball-playing prodigy will likely be a Reds regular by the time Canada/USA/Mexico comes around. 

CB/ Levi Colwill 

Very big things are expected from Colwill who inevitably has been compared to John Terry after breaking through the Chelsea ranks.
A superb reader of danger and comfortable in possession, the 20-year-old’s ceiling is immensely high and what he also brings to the party is being left-footed, providing a natural balance to England’s back-line. 

Mid/ Declan Rice

West Ham fans are naturally a bit miffed this season, hearing the avalanche of praise for Rice and his assured protection of Arsenal’s rearguard. Rice has been performing to the same exceptionally high standard for the Hammers for several years.
A captain-in-the-making for his country, the 24-year-old will be reaching his prime come the next World Cup and who knows, might be a title-winner by then to boot. 

Mid/ Rico Lewis 

According to the rumour mill, Gareth Southgate is set to step down as England gaffer after next summer’s Euros and his departure throws up the exciting possibility of a Rice, Bellingham and Foden midfield three, Southgate openly distrustful of the latter being deployed centrally.
The biggest threat to that however is not his successor feeling the same way, but instead England producing from nowhere their very own Joshua Kimmich, schooled in Pep-ball and displaying in-game intelligence that makes a mockery of his tender years.
With Lewis and Rice working in tandem, that provides a secure platform for Bellingham to stride forward and wreak brilliant havoc.  

Mid/ Jude Bellingham

Should Bellingham’s development plateau, and he remains exactly the player he presently is until the day he retires, then he will probably still win a Ballon d’Or or two; still be instrumental in Real Madrid besting Barcelona in la Liga several times over. 
And he will bring England’s odds down in the World Cup betting simply by lighting up their midfield. 
Except, the 20-year-old sensation won’t level out. He will only get better and better, and that should be a scary thought for every opponent to come. 

For/ Phil Foden

Any concerns that Foden’s astonishing trajectory was beginning to level out has been put to bed this term, the 23-year-old consistently in devastating form for Manchester City, so often their difference-maker. 
His explosive pace over ten yards and a Subbuteo-esque balance with the ball at his feet means the multiple-Premier League winner will always be a serious threat, while his ability to alter the live betting and produce moments of magic from nowhere is a significant plus.
Phil Foden would walk into any other nation’s strongest XI. Fact. 

For/ Bukayo Saka 

The Arsenal flyer has long been his club’s most potent attacking weapon. In the past couple of years that has translated to the international stage too. 
Eighteen goal involvements in 30 outings is testament to that with Saka picking up the mantle left behind by a fading Raheem Sterling to become England’s go-to winger capable of disrupting low-blocks and create gilt-edged chances against stubborn resistance. 
It is considerably more difficult to win major tournaments minus a player of his ilk. 

For/ Harry Kane 

By the time the next World Cup rolls around, Kane will be 33 and very probably approaching 80+ goals for his country, a record haul that will also very probably never be beaten.
Currently blazing a trail in the Bundesliga, Kane’s propensity to drop deep and create may increasingly become more in evidence as his legs weary but place the ball at his feet and give him a sliver of a sight of goal and he’ll still finish with ruthless accuracy.
The Spurs and Bayern legend will be his nation’s leading man for another five years minimum.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to Alamy*

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.