The preshock (critical) regions of 20 mainshocks with magnitudes between 6.4 and 8.3, which occurred recently (since 1980) in a variety of seismotectonic regimes (Greece, Anatolia, Himalayas, Japan, California), were identified and investigated. All these strong earthquakes were preceded by accelerating time-to-mainshock seismic crustal deformation (Benioff strain). The time variation of the cumulative Benioff strain follows a power law with a power value (m = 0.3) in very good agreement with theoretical considerations. We observed that the dimension of the critical region increased with increasing mainshock magnitude and with decreasing long-term seismicity rate of the region. An increase of the duration of this critical (preshock) phenomenon with decreasing long-term seismicity rate was also observed. This spatial and temporal scaling expresses characteristics of the critical earthquake model, which are of importance for earthquake prediction research. We also showed that the critical region of an oncoming mainshock coincides with the preparing region of this shock, where other precursory phenomena can be observed.