MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup final as the schedule and host city allotments were announced on Sunday, two years out from when the biggest World Cup in history comes to North America.
MetLife Stadium won the right to host the final in a two-venue competition against AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The New Jersey venue stands on the same ground that the previous Giants Stadium hosted seven games in the 1994 World Cup, including a semifinal.
Industry sources told SportsTravel in the months leading to the announcement that FIFA President Gianni Infantino wanted the final to be at the venue and what Infantino wants, he usually gets. MetLife Stadium was also proposed at the outset to host the final when the combined North America bid was first submitted to FIFA.
Why New York/New Jersey Will Host the Final
MetLife Stadium, with a capacity of 82,500, opened in 2009 and hosted the Copa America final between Chile and Argentina in 2016. The local host committee throughout the process stressed the diversity of the region as one of the biggest and most famous cities in the world. New York/New Jersey also has a huge youth soccer base which has developed dozens of national team players.
MetLife Stadium officials plan to remove 1,740 seats to widen the field for World Cup matches; MetLife’s current dimension for soccer matches is 70-by-115 yards; FIFA requires a 75-by-115-yard field for World Cup games. The stadium will have its FieldTurf surface replaced with natural grass for the World Cup per FIFA requirements.
“The FIFA setback provisions really impact MetLife only at the corners,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in the fall when announcing the plans to remove seats. “New Jersey and New York City — remember our partners New York City — we’re prepared clearly to put serious skin in the game.”
The local host committee can request funding from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority for modifications to the stadium. That money comes from $7.5 million in funding from the state budget “for international events, improvements and sporting attractions.” New York/New Jersey organizers also boasted about the transport system to MetLife Stadium with train service connecting most of the region with the Meadowlands Rail Station at the stadium for major events.
Other Spotlight Matches Announced
The opening match will be June 11, 2026, in Mexico City, confirming what industry sources told SportsTravel in January. Estadio Azteca will undergo renovations this year and be ready to re-open in 2025 (which is why the stadium will not be part of the NFL International schedule this fall) and it was the host of the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals won by two of the most legendary teams in FIFA history, Pele’s Brazil in 1970 and Diego Maradona’s Mexico in 1986. It also hosted the opening matches in 1970 and 1986, meaning Mexico City in 2026 will be the first city to ever host three World Cup opening matches.
The first match in the United States will be at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on June 12, 2026. Los Angeles hosted title games in both the 1994 men’s World Cup and 1999 women’s World Cup but the fate of the city’s host responsibilities was a much-whispered topic throughout the fall; SoFi Stadium is a technological marvel but what it needs in modifications and the costs involved has been a topic of discussion. The U.S. has major World Cup history in Los Angeles, having beaten Colombia 2-0 at the Rose Bowl in what was the first U.S. win in a World Cup game since 1950. The U.S. will be in the West Region for the group stage with the opener in Los Angeles, the second game in Seattle and the final group-stage game back in Los Angeles.
The first FIFA Men’s World Cup match ever held in Canada will be at BMO Field in Toronto on June 12, 2026. BMO Field, home of MLS’ Toronto FC, hosted matches during the 2007 U-20 World Cup and 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup. It also was where Canada’s national team clinched qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, its first World Cup appearance since 1986. The stadium capacity is currently lower than FIFA requirements and will be undergoing extensive expansion and renovations to be over 40,000 by 2026. After the opener in Toronto, Canada will play its two other group-stage games in Vancouver.
The third-place match will be in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, which has become a routine stop for international club soccer exhibitions. While the new Formula 1 race held around the stadium site caused some drama with FIFA initially, the city’s standing as the home for Concacaf headquarters also made it hard to pass up. In the past six months, Miami has become the home for FIFA’s centralized 2026 World Cup planning and Hard Rock Stadium was named as host of the 2024 Copa América final.
In the round of 32, Los Angeles and Dallas will host two matches while every other city except Guadalajara and Philadelphia will host one. The round of 16 be in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Mexico City, Philadelphia, Seattle and Vancouver. The quarterfinals will be in Boston, Kansas City, Los Angeles and Miami while the semifinals will be in Dallas and Atlanta.
How The Schedule Was Assembled
When FIFA announced which cities would host, it did so by grouping them in regions with Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Guadalajara in the West; Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Monterrey and Mexico City in the Central and Toronto, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Miami in the East.
From the announcement of host cities until Sunday, FIFA repeatedly hinted that the regional philosophy would be how the schedule of groups was made and then the organization of the knockout rounds would also be regionally grouped. The regional philosophy also went into how the host countries would be assigned to certain regions. CONCACAF President and FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani told The Athletic last week that the coaches of the United States, Mexico and Canada’s men’s national teams had input into where each team would play.
“They all wanted to make sure that with their training bases, after a match they didn’t have to fly five hours to a training base, every game,” Montagliani said. “They want to be able to move, and have, as much as they can, a bit of a home, right? So we discussed that all with (co-host nation’s coaches). They want as much continuity and as much regularity as they can get in the tournament.”
Dallas lost out on the final but will have the most matches of any host with nine all told. Los Angeles and Atlanta were next among U.S. host cities with eight matches apiece while Houston, Miami, Boston and New York/New Jersey will host seven apiece. The Bay Area, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Seattle will host six apiece.
Canada will have 13 matches with seven in Vancouver and six in Toronto. Mexico will also have 13 matches with five in Mexico City and four in both Monterrey and Guadalajara.
The first reason is from a logistics and budgetary standpoint of the local organizing committees.
“Not only is it knowing the schedule important, but it helps from a budget standpoint to be able to really hone in on the needs that you’re going to need over that time period,” Dallas Sports Commission Executive Director Monica Paul told SportsTravel before Sunday’s announcement. “Knowing truly when a match is happening or a match isn’t happening that day informs us when we have to deal with (FanFest) activations or general public needs rather than a game taking place.”
The 48-team tournament will be the biggest FIFA World Cup, with 104 matches. When the 2026 World Cup was awarded to North America, the plan was for 16 groups of three teams apiece and a total of 80 matches in the tournament. The plan was for Canada and Mexico to host 10 games apiece with the U.S. hosting 60 games. Then the 2022 World Cup happened and featured one of the best group stages in tournament history, convincing FIFA to change the format with 12 groups of four teams, making the tournament 104 games instead of 80.
“It’s next to impossible to start refining a budget without knowing how many matches we will be hosting because it impacts everything from transportation to safety and security to how we program FanFest, how we plan around FanFest,” KC2026 Executive Director Katherine Holland added.
Another reason is plain curiosity and scheduling of other things within each city.
“The main thing is trying to know how many matches are we going to have, what’s the first match in Houston and when’s the last match in Houston,” said Houston 2026 World Cup Host Committee President Chris Canetti. “Whether we have two weeks of matches or four weeks of matches will dictate so many things such as other events in the stadium.”
Cities also need the schedule to see whether having a certain number of games — and knockout matches — would make its local host sponsorship packages more valuable and therefore add potential revenue to offset the costs of hosting the World Cup.
“The amount of local partners that you’re able to bring on in the hosting of the event, we’re awaiting the tournament schedule to come so we can identify the number of matches,” Atlanta Sports Council President Dan Corso said. “We’ve had conversations with companies about engaging so once that schedule comes out we’ll be able to go back to them with a little bit more detail.”
FIFA also has other things to consider — the summer of 2026 will be the United States’ semiquincentennial with major events planned around the country but especially in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, which are host cities. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami will host the 2026 College Football Playoff title game and Levi’s Stadium in the Bay Area will also host Super Bowl LX in February 2026, just a few months before the World Cup starts. During the World Cup time period, Philadelphia will also host the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
“The match schedule will be the puzzle piece that is going to allow us to know what the puzzle is supposed to look like,” Philadelphia Host City Executive Meg Kane said. “There’s a lot of pieces right now. And we think we know what it’s supposed to look like, but the schedule will bring that clarity to what it’s supposed to look like. And then from there, we can really begin to look at how those matches and whether there are knockout rounds or quarterfinals or whatever we are assigned, how those can be leveraged for that revenue generation that will help us to offset the cost of hosting.”
The 2026 World Cup will be the culmination of what this year starts three consecutive summers of major international soccer tournaments in North America. The 2024 Copa América will be held in the United States from June 20 to July 14. Eight of the cities that will host 2026 World Cup matches will be involved — Atlanta, Bay Area, Dallas, Kansas City, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/New Jersey and Miami. Also hosting Copa matches will be Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Glendale, Arizona; Las Vegas and Orlando.
In 2025 will be the FIFA Club World Cup, which will feature 32 club teams from around the world, and the Concacaf Gold Cup, the continental federation’s biannual tournament which is reportedly going to be expanded to a 24-team international team event (although not yet confirmed by Concacaf).