It’s here! A dream come true: 2026 World Cup final will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy learned of the decision while at a watch party in a MetLife Stadium suite. PHOTO: Ivan Piedra Photography

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey. February 4, 2024 (Hudson Latin Chamber) — The 2026 FIFA World Cup Final will be played at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on July 19. FIFA announced the tournament schedule on Sunday. It was a fight between MetLife and AT&T Stadium in Dallas for the final. FIFA gave Dallas the most matches with nine. MetLife will host eight, including the biggest prize of them all. The opener of the 39-day tournament will be played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on June 11.

The U.S. Men’s National Team will play its first match at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on June 12, and then travel to Lumen Field in Seattle, before returning to SoFi for the last leg of the group stage. MetLife does have a Round of 32 and Round of 16 match so maybe the U.S. can play itself into one of those. We won’t know if that’s possible until the group draws are made in spring of 2026. The third-place game will be at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Located about 10 miles from Manhattan, MetLife was promoted by both New York and New Jersey, where the stadium was built in the Meadowlands marshes. The land of Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Frank Sinatra will be the focal point of the globe on that Sunday, when either Lionel Messi’s Argentina will try to win its second straight title or a successor will emerge.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “The most inclusive and impactful FIFA World Cup ever is no longer a dream but a reality that will take shape in the form of 104 matches in 16 state-of-the-art stadiums across Canada, Mexico and the USA. From the opening match at the iconic Estadio Azteca to the spectacular final in New York New Jersey players and fans have been at the core of our extensive planning for this game-changing tournament.”

“I would like to thank our three host countries and 16 Host Cities for the unwavering commitment to staging a FIFA World Cup that will not only set new records but also leave an indelible legacy.” FIFA Vice-President and Concacaf President Victor Montagliani said: “The FIFA World Cup 26 will be a watershed moment and one that will trigger massive football development in our region and worldwide. While each Host City is unique, they all have something in common – they are passionate about football and cannot wait to welcome the world in June and July 2026.”

The tournament’s innovative match schedule will serve to minimise travel for teams and fans alike, while the number of rest days between fixtures will be maximised. Having been drawn up in consultation with key stakeholders, including national-team coaches and technical directors, the schedule will also increase the prospect of matches being played in the best possible conditions and ensure that fans have shorter travel times when following their teams. Match pairings and kick-off times will be confirmed following the Final Draw for FIFA World Cup 26, which is expected to take place towards the end of 2025.

FIFA made the announcement Sunday at a Miami television studio, allocating the opener of the 39-day tournament to Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca on June 11 and the finale to the home of the NFL’s New York Jets and Giants. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had lobbied for the final to be at his AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. All games from the quarterfinals on are being played in the United States. Semifinals are on July 14 at AT&T and the following day at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Quarterfinals are at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on July 9, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, the following day, and at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on July 11. The third-place game will be at Hard Rock on July 18. Since reaching the semifinals of the first World Cup in 1930, the U.S. has advanced to the quarterfinals just once, in 2002.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New York City Mayor Eric Adams joined in on the excitement. “As an advocate for this region, and a lifelong soccer fan, I am thrilled that FIFA chose to place their trust in New York/New Jersey to host the historic FIFA World Cup 26 Final,” Murphy said in a statement. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our entire region; hosting the Final provides NYNJ an unparalleled platform to brilliantly showcase what we stand for — diversity, equality, access, and inclusion.”

Governor Phil Murphy learned of the decision while at a watch party in a MetLife Stadium suite. He was not discouraged by a British tabloid report on Jan. 17 that said the final would be at AT&T. “We did everything we could to put our head downs, focus on the job at hand, kind of push out the noise, and that turned out to be a winning formula,” Murphy said.

“The FIFA World Cup 26 Final will be a generation-defining moment for New York/New Jersey, and there’s no better place to host the world’s biggest game than the world’s biggest stage,” Adams said in a statement. “New York/New Jersey is ready for North America to be the center of the soccer world, and the history we’ll be making in 2026 will create lifetime memories for fans, provide new opportunities for our communities, infuse billions into our economy, and help shape our region and propel it forward for decades to come.”

The 2026 World Cup will be played in 16 host cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and will feature 48 teams. USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter, a Tenafly, New Jersey native, said he can’t wait for it to start. “To have the final in New York/New Jersey … it’s a dream come true for me, being from the area, an area with a rich tradition in soccer. To think about watching the Cosmos and selling out Giants Stadium, and now this stadium is going to host a World Cup Final, so it’s really special,” Berhalter said.

Beyond the historical significance, Jim Kirkos, CEO of the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce, said the event is expected to bring $2 billion in revenue and 14,000 jobs. “We know how to do the transportation. We know how to do the security,” Kirkos said. “Seven games and the Final is a lot of economic impact, a lot of visitors and tourists coming to our region and we start tomorrow, making sure we’re gonna put our best foot forward to provide a great warm welcome to the world.”

With the additional teams, the length of the tournament will grow from 29 days in the shortened 2022 schedule in Qatar and 32 days for the 2018 tournament in Russia. Only one match will involve a team that has not had at least three off days. FIFA divided the group stage into East, Central and West regions and intended to make travel shorter for group winners.

The stadiums in Arlington, Atlanta and Houston have retractable roofs that are expected to be closed because of summer heat, and Inglewood and Vancouver have fixed roofs. Artificial turf will be replaced by grass in Arlington, Atlanta, East Rutherford, Foxborough, Houston, Inglewood, Seattle and Vancouver. Several of the venues are expected to widen their surfaces to accommodate a 75-by-115 yard (68-by-105 meter) playing field, including AT&T, MetLife and SoFi.