N.J./N.Y. officials, after being announced as 2026 World Cup site, subtly start stating case to host final

From food, culture, fans — and airport connections to anywhere on globe — area officials feel they have it all

MetLife Stadium, as expected, was one of the 11 venues in the U.S. selected Thursday to host games during the 2026 FIFA World Cup. And, in a boost to South Jersey, Philadelphia also was selected.

Which games will be played at which sites — including the coveted final — is the big question. And one that won’t be answered for months.

It’s no secret that MetLife Stadium would like to host the final and that the New Jersey/New York metro area would like to be known as the host area — or the one that will be used in backdrops of international coverage and serve as the main location for Fan Fest opportunities.

The decision on who hosts the final — as well as who hosts the two semifinal games — is not expected to be made until after the 2022 World Cup (which will be held in November-December in Qatar) and until after FIFA has extended conversations with potential locations.

There’s no way of telling, but most feel MetLIfe Stadium will battle SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and potentially AT&T Stadium in Dallas for the right to host the three marquee games.

Without directly stating their case, officials in the New Jersey/New York region — in the news release about the announcement — offered reasons why the area should be considered as the ultimate host, citing the following:

  • MetLife Stadium welcomes 2 million visitors a year;
  • The New Jersey/New York region has five airports serving 181 countries;
  • More hotels are currently being built in the region than currently exist in the other candidate cities;
  • The region is the entertainment, tourism, food and media capital of the world.

While officials in Southern California might disagree on the final point, leaders in New Jersey/New York said no area can match its culture.

“New York/New Jersey is home to some of the nation’s most engaged and diverse soccer fans, representing countries from all corners of the world,” they wrote. “The region’s football-loving culture, along with its diverse and global population, create a community that will be thrilled to experience FIFA World Cup matches and welcome guests with open arms.”

In addition to the matches to be played at MetLife Stadium, New Jersey/New York will host FIFA Fan Fests throughout the region. The proposed training facilities are at Rutgers University, Pingry School, Kean University, Red Bull Football Club Training Center and New York City Football Club Training Center.

In 1994, the only other time the World Cup was played in the U.S., Giants Stadium hosted seven games, including a quarterfinal and semifinal match. The final was played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

The 2026 World Cup will be different in many ways. For starters, there will be an expanded field of 48 teams. In addition, the event will be played in three countries, as games will be played at three sites in Mexico and two in Canada.

Sixty games will be played in the U.S.; Mexico and Canada will each host 10 games.

Here’s a list of selected sites in the U.S.:

  • Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium);
  • Boston (Gillette Stadium);
  • Dallas (AT&T Stadium);
  • Houston (NRG Stadium);
  • Kansas City, Missouri (Arrowhead Stadium);
  • Los Angeles (SoFi Stadium);
  • Miami (Hard Rock Stadium);
  • New Jersey/New York (MetLife Stadium);
  • Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial Field);
  • San Francisco Bay Area (Levi’s Stadium);
  • Seattle (Lumen Field).

Here is a list of the selected sites in Mexico and Canada:

  • Guadalajara, Mexico (Estadio Akron);
  • Monterrey, Mexico (Estadio BBVA Bancomer);
  • Mexico City (Estadio Azteca);
  • Toronto (BMO Field);
  • Vancouver, British Columbia (BC Place).

Here is a list of the sites that were not selected:

  • Baltimore/Washington, D.C. (M&T Bank Stadium);
  • Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium);
  • Denver (Empower Field at Mile High);
  • Edmonton, Alberta (Commonwealth Stadium);
  • Nashville, Tennessee (Nissan Stadium);
  • Orlando, Florida (Camping World Stadium).

Numerous New Jersey officials weighed in on the announcement, including Gov. Phil Murphy, a noted fan of the sport.

“We are honored to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup with our neighbors across the Hudson, and we are fully prepared to deliver the world-class experience this beautiful sport deserves,” he said. “Future generations of New Jerseyans will remember fondly that, in the immediate aftermath of a global pandemic, the world’s largest sporting event was hosted by the world’s largest region.

“In addition to building on our future global legacy, as a host region, we will also benefit from significant activity and economic impact, as well as opportunities to showcase our state’s rich cultural diversity. As we welcome the world today and every day, we remember that the values of inclusion and unity are not only central to the World Cup, but to who we are as New Jerseyans.”

Jim Kirkos, the CEO of the Meadowlands Chamber & Meadowlands Convention and Visitors Bureau, obviously was thrilled, too.

“There is no doubt that soccer’s popularity is skyrocketing in the United States,” he said. “It’s the most popular sport in the world — and that’s why we couldn’t be more proud of being a host venue for the 2026 World Cup — it’s the premier sporting event in the world.

“MetLife Stadium’s 82,000-seat capacity and proximity to hospitality both in New Jersey and New York City will be a historic and defining moment for our region, not only in terms of sports history, but also in terms of economic activity.”

Vincent Prieto, CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and former speaker of the General Assembly, said the authority is eager to show itself to the world.

“The 2026 FIFA World Cup will highlight the Meadowlands region to an international audience,” he said. “We look forward to offering unparalleled experiences to fans around the world, including the dynamism of our centers, and abundant options for shopping and dining.”