Scoring at the Fifa World Cup is seen as the pinnacle of a players career. Top World Cup goal scorers can use their goals on the world stage to force a lucrative new contract.

If a club cannot meet the player’s demands, a transfer request can ensure a move to a big-spending club like Real Madrid or Manchester City.

The World Cup tournament in North America 2026 is the next big opportunity for the hotshots playing upfront.

Strikers from every nation taking part will be aiming to claim the Golden Boot award in the upcoming tournament.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top scorers from recent World Cup tournaments.

Golden Boot – World Cup 2022

Kylian Mbappé – 8 Goals

There is something inherently unfair about being a player who scores three goals in a World Cup Final and still lose.

The 2022 showdown between France and Argentina went to 3-3 after extra time, only for penalties to decide the winner.

Argentina won the shootout 4-2 after Coman and Tchouaméni both missed their penalties for France.

Lionel Messi – 7 Goals

He may not have won the Golden Boot but he did win the World Cup so Lionel Messi and by adding seven goals to his tally in 2022, he also became one the highest goal scorers of all time in the World Cup.

BEST GOAL
Brazil’s Richarlison won the award for his second goal in the group stage match against Serbia.

World Cup 2018 Top Scorer

Harry Kane – 6 Goals

Harry Kane became just the second English player to win the World Cup Golden Boot. Gary Lineker was the only previous English winner back in 1986.

Despite this personal accolade and helping England reach the Semi-Final, there will always be an element of “What If” with Kane and that England team.

With England 1-0 up against Croatia, Kane had a great opportunity to make it 2 but it was not to be.

Romelu Lukaku, Denis Cheryshev, Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann, Cristiano Ronaldo – 4 Goals:

All five players scored four times, with Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann ultimately having a dream end to the World Cup as they beat Croatia in the final.

Three of Ronaldo’s goals came in a thrilling group stage match with Spain.

Romelu Lukaku helped his Belgium side to a 3rd place finish, their highest ever place in the World Cup.

BEST GOAL
Despite all the attacking talent on show, it was French defender Benjamin Pavard who scored the goal of the tournament with a stunning strike against Argentina.

2014 World Cup – Top Goal Scorer

James Rodriquez – 6 Goals

Rodriquez has never quite reached the level of performance that he managed in Brazil.

Despite his side being knocked out in the Quarter Finals, he won the Golden Boot and was named in the team of the tournament.

He also won the Puskas Award and the goal of the tournament with this strike against Uruguay.

Thomas Muller – 5 Goals

Muller’s five goals helped Germany to win their first World Cup since 2002.

He scored the first in their 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the Semi-Final.

Lionel Messi, Neymar, Robin van Persie – 4 Goals

Messi, Neymar, and Van Persie would have all been disappointed that they didn’t go on to win the World Cup, but all impressed at different points of the competition.

Van Persie’s incredible header against Spain in the Group Stages was nominated for the Puskas Award.

World Cup 2010 – Most Goals Scored

Thomas Müller, Wesley Sneijder, David Villa and Diego Forlán all finished the 2010 World Cup with 5 goals each.

Müller won the tournament’s Golden Boot has he the most assists with three. Sneijder, Villa Diego Forlán all had one assist each.

Villa played an integral part in Spain winning the competition, scoring three times in the Group Stages and helping his side recover from defeat in their first game.

2006 World Cup – Top Scorer

Miroslav Klose won the Golden Boot at the 2006 World Cup, taking advantage of the tournament being played in familiar surroundings in Germany.

Several players, including the Brazilian Ronaldo, scored three each. This would also be Ronaldo’s last World Cup.

His goal against Ghana in Brazil’s last-16 match also proved to be his last goal at International level.

Also scoring three times was Zinedine Zidane, despite scoring in the final, he is remembered for being sent off in his last ever professional match.

World Cup 2002 – Golden Boot

This was a memorable tournament for so many different reasons. Ronaldo scored the most goals with eight.

That helped Brazil to reach their third straight final which they won after a 2-0 win over Germany.

Fellow Brazilian Rivaldo managed an impressive five goals, alongside Miroslav Klose who was showing a sign of things to come.

It was a free-kick from Ronaldinho in the Quarter Final against England that, unless you are David Seaman, is one of the most fondly remembered goals from the tournament which took place in Japan and South Korea.

Ronaldinho’s speculative free-kick put Brazil 2-1 up against England in the 2002 World Cup Quarter Final.

Top World Cup Scorers In History

The FIFA World Cup has witnessed some of the most electrifying moments in the history of football.

At the heart of these memorable occasions are the goal scorers who have left an indelible mark on the tournament’s legacy.

From legends like Miroslav Klose and Pelé to iconic figures like Ronaldo and Gerd Müller, the World Cup’s top goal scorers have thrilled fans with their remarkable skill, precision, and the ability to find the back of the net when it matters most.

So just which footballers have scored the most goals ever in the World Cup?

Miroslav Klose (Germany) – 16 Goals

Miroslav Klose is the all-time leading goalscorer in FIFA World Cup history.

He scored 16 goals in the tournaments he participated in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Ronaldo (Brazil) – 15 Goals

Ronaldo, also known as “R9,” scored 15 goals in FIFA World Cup tournaments 1998, 2002, and 2006, making him the second highest goal scorers.

Gerd Müller (Germany) – 14 Goals

Gerd Müller scored 14 goals during his World Cup career, primarily in the 1970 and 1974 tournaments.

Just Fontaine (France) – 13 Goals

Just Fontaine holds the record for the most goals scored in a single World Cup tournament, with 13 goals in the 1958 World Cup.

Lionel Messi (Argentina) – 13 Goals

It may have taken three attempts but Messi finally won a World Cup with Argentina in 2022. Considered one of the world’s greatest players he has notched up 13 over 2014, 2018 and 2022.

Pelé (Brazil) – 12 Goals

Pelé, one of the greatest footballers of all time, scored 12 goals in World Cup tournaments 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970.

Sandor Kocsis (Hungary) – 11 Goals

Sandor Kocsis scored 11 goals during the 1954 World Cup, which is one of the highest goal-scoring performances in a single tournament.

Jürgen Klinsmann (Germany) – 11 Goals

Jürgen Klinsmann scored 11 goals in FIFA World Cup tournaments, participating in 1990, 1994, and 1998.

Helmut Rahn (Germany) – 10 Goals

Helmut Rahn, known for his crucial goal in the 1954 World Cup final, scored 10 goals during his World Cup career.

Eusébio (Portugal) – 9 Goals

Eusébio scored 9 goals in the 1966 World Cup, finishing as the tournament’s top goalscorer.

Looking Ahead To America, Canada & Mexico

The 2026 FIFA World Cup marks the 23rd renewal of the tournament and is scheduled to take place from June through July 19th, 2026.

It will be jointly hosted by 16 cities spread across three North American nations: Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

This is the first time three countries have come together to host the World Cup and the first World Cup in North America since 1994.

One of the most significant changes for this tournament is the expansion of the participating teams from 32 to 48, a historic development.

Moreover, this event will revert to its traditional summer schedule after the 2022 edition in Qatar, which was held in November and December.

When Does Qualifying For the 2026 World Cup Start?

When on which country you follow, qualification games for the 2026 World Cup are staggered from 2023 to March 2026.

The table below will give you a good idea of when to expect the games to be played.

Confederation Direct slots Play-off slots Teams started Teams eliminated Teams can still qualify Teams qualified Qualifying start date Qualifying next match date Qualifying end date
AFC 8 1 46 10 36 0 12 October 2023 21 March 2024 November 2025
CAF 9 1 53 0 53 0 15 November 2023 3 June 2024 18 November 2025
CONCACAF 3+3 2 32+3 0 32 0+3 March 2024 March 2024 November 2025
CONMEBOL 6 1 10 0 10 0 7 September 2023 2 September 2024 September 2025
OFC 1 1 11 0 11 0 September 2024 September 2024 March 2025
UEFA 16 0 55 0 55 0 March 2025 March 2025 March 2026
Play-offs 2 (6) 0 0 0 March 2026 March 2026 March 2026
Total 45+3 6 207+3 10 197 0+3 7 September 2023 March 2024 March 2026