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Sunday, May 19, 2024

New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium wins the 2026 World Cup final

The 2026 World Cup final will be staged at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey after FIFA, world football’s governing body, chose the venue over those in Dallas and Los Angeles.

The home of the New York Giants and the New York Jets has been selected ahead of Dallas’ AT&T Stadium and L.A.’s SoFi Stadium to host world football’s most prestigious match.

The opening game of the 2026 World Cup, meanwhile, will be held at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca on June 11. Toronto’s BMO Field and Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium respectively will host Canada and the U.S.’s first matches a day later.

Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium will be the venue for the third-placed play-off game, while Dallas’ AT&T Stadium will host the most matches at the tournament with nine.

FIFA held a meeting at the Park Lane Hotel in London in January in which the venue for the 2026 final was discussed, with council members meeting ahead of The Best awards that were held later that evening.

New Jersey’s governor Phil Murphy held talks with FIFA in September and had been confident that the MetLife Stadium would be chosen for the match.

Traditionally a venue for the NFL, the 82,500-capacity stadium first hosted a soccer match in May 2010 — one month after its opening — with a selection of international and club fixtures played there over the last 14 years. It will host three matches at the 2024 Copa America, including one of the semi-finals.

The World Cup final will take place on July 19, 2026, and will conclude the first-ever 48-nation edition of the competition — an increase from the 32-team format that has been in place since 1998.

The revised tournament will consist of 12 four-nation groups, with each of the top two advancing through to the knockout stages alongside the eight best-performing third-placed sides.

A last-32 stage has been introduced as an additional knockout round which means the overall number of matches in the tournament has jumped from 64 to 104.

The 2026 World Cup will be staged across 16 stadiums, with the U.S. cities of New York, Dallas, Miami, Kansas, Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston joined by Mexico’s Monterrey, Guadalajara and Mexico City, alongside Canada’s Vancouver and Toronto.

What New Jersey will bring

Analysis by Melanie Anzidei

The New Jersey venue opened in 2009. Though World Cup games have been played in the Meadowlands, those matches were hosted at Giants Stadium, which was torn down to make way for MetLife next door. MetLife successfully hosted the Copa America final between Chile and Argentina in 2016, a precursor to Messi Mania when tickets for a match were far more attainable than they likely will be this summer.

MetLife usually has a turf pitch for NFL matches but will be converted to grass for World Cup games to meet FIFA’s standards. For this summer’s Copa America fixtures, the stadium will utilize $400,000 (£313,000) in funds from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA), which holds the land lease where MetLife stands, to turn the field over to grass, an agency spokesperson told The Athletic.

In September, the venue hit the headlines when Aaron Rodgers tore an Achilles tendon in his debut for the Jets just moments into their opening game, reigniting a debate on player safety.

(Michael Owens/Getty Images)

Supporters of the New York/New Jersey bid have long argued New York City is the obvious choice because of the city’s global heritage, with landmarks like Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty nearby, as well as the city’s relative importance in the global market. New York City, which to some is still considered the financial capital of the world, offers fans a built-in tourist attraction and the final will take place just a few weeks after the country’s 250th celebration of July 4.

There are calls for increased bus routes to the region, with officials in New Jersey racing to build a Transitway in time for the 2026 tournament. In July, the board of NJ Transit, the state’s public transportation system, approved $35million in spending to fully design a new corridor from Secaucus, where there is a regional transit hub called Secaucus Junction, to MetLife Stadium.

During large events at MetLife, a special train service connects Secaucus Junction with the Meadowlands Rail Station at the stadium. Though easy to use, the service hasn’t always been perfect. Locals may remember some high-profile transit flops: during the 2014 Super Bowl, for instance, thousands of fans were stranded for hours trying to get home from the big game. A similar mess happened in 2019 with WrestleMania.

More recently, Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour went off without a hitch for three performances over one holiday weekend. That may have been because the tour took place on a weekend in the summer, when most people in the New York metro area flock either to Long Island or the Jersey Shore to avoid the city heat – and, potentially, the expected traffic.

(Perry Knotts/Getty Images)

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