FIFA World Cup 2026: FIFA requirements a deterrent to hosting the final?

source:; author: Paulina Skóra

FIFA World Cup 2026: FIFA requirements a deterrent to hosting the final? The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be held in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, marking the first time in history that the tournament will be hosted by three countries. It will also feature a record 48 participating teams. Matches will take place across 16 stadiums in 16 cities, but the location for the crucial final matches is still undecided.


New Jersey or Arlington?

The leading contenders to host the final seem to be MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Both venues are undergoing multimillion-dollar projects to meet FIFA standards and gain approval from decision-makers. The federation specified in the bid that the final stadium must have a minimum capacity of 74,000 seats and natural grass.

It might seem somewhat peculiar to mention live turf here, considering these venues are primarily used for American football and have artificial surface. However, when AT&T Stadium hosts soccer matches, a temporary natural pitch is laid, as was the case in 2023 when a friendly match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona took place at the Arlington venue.

MetLife Stadium© Doug Kerr (cc: by-sa) | MetLife Stadium

Final challenges

Due to their primary use for sports other than soccer, these venues also face challenges related to field width. MetLife Stadium has announced plans to remove 1,740 seats to widen the field to FIFA's required dimensions (68 by 105 meters), reducing the capacity to around 80,000 seats. In Arlington, the proposed plan involves raising the field level by 5 meters to gain additional width, reducing the stadium's capacity from around 105,000 to 90,000 seats.

AT&T Stadium© Grzegorz Kaliciak | AT&T Stadium

Hundreds of millions for one match

The requirement to widen the field is what led the seemingly strongest candidate, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, to lose its chances of hosting the final. However, its owner, Stan Kroenke, sought guarantees before investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the widening project. It appears that both New Jersey and Arlington are hesitant to undertake such a significant expense for a complete renovation of the playing surface for just one match—the World Cup final.

FIFA has not yet announced when it will make its decision on the final venue public. American sources suggest a lack of clear communication between the USA and FIFA on this matter. There are also rumors that FIFA President Gianni Infantino favors New York for the final, and in the current FIFA landscape, Gianni usually gets what he wants.

The renovation of AT&T Stadium is set to begin in January, costing nearly $300 million. Aside from the previously mentioned field expansion affecting the seating capacity, the overall appearance and atmosphere of the venue will remain unchanged, but renovations will refresh premium spaces and modernize technology. The project is being handled by HKS Architects based in Dallas. As for the renovation of the New Jersey venue, it is expected to cost over $14 million and will likely commence after the conclusion of the 2024 Copa América.

SoFi Stadium© Kevin C. Korczyk, AECOM |SoFi Stadium