$3B World Cup? Why landing final is raising potential economic impact for region

About that study that suggested having the 2026 World Cup (and the final) in the area could be worth an estimated $2 billion of economic impact. It likely is wrong.

The impact now figures to be much more.

At least, that was the takeaway of two New Jersey officials who are close to the event planning: Eric Brophy, the deputy chief of staff for economic growth in Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, and Brady O’Connor, the chief of external affairs and deputy chief commercial officer for the NY/NJ Host Committee.

Brophy, speaking at the New Jersey Bankers Association’s Economic Leadership Forum last week, said he thinks the impact will be closer to $3 billion, now that MetLife Stadium has been awarded the final.

“That wasn’t included when we made the (original projection),” he told the overflow crowd.

How you exactly measure that — particularly when it comes to New Jersey — is complicated.

“When we originally were thinking about it, we were thinking, ‘What’ is the impact of New York going to be versus New Jersey,’” Brophy said. “I think, as we got closer to the pitch for the final, we thought it made more sense to look at it globally, and to look at it as a regional effort.”

The reasons for that are easier to explain.

The event, which runs from June 11-July 19 in 2026, will draw fans from great distances. When MetLife Stadium hosts eight games, it will bring people from far away — meaning they will not all bring the same economic impact to North Jersey.

Of course, the same holds true for the six games scheduled to be played in Philadelphia.

Brophy and O’Connor expect South Jersey will benefit greatly from those events, as the state hopes some of those fans will bring benefit to Atlantic City and other parts of South Jersey.

The total benefit won’t be determined for years, O’Connor said. But short-term benefits will be seen, including an estimated 14,000 jobs and more than 1 million visitors.

“This is going to benefit everyone in this room,” Brophy said. “We may not feel the effects for a year afterward on how much it’s done for the region, but we feel really good about it. And we know FIFA feels really good about it, too.”

Here are other notes from Brophy and O’Connor from the 30-minute conversation, which was moderated by Steven Klein, the CEO of Northfield Bank and the chair of NJ Bankers. The answers are drawn from responses from Brophy and O’Connor.

Q: How big will the 2026 World Cup be?

A: It will be the biggest sporting event ever. The last World Cup was equal to 13 Super Bowls. This year’s World Cup, which has been expanded from 32 to 48 teams, will have 104 total games, up from 64.

Q: Can MetLife Stadium handle eight games with a boisterous crowd of approximately 80,000?

A: It handled three Taylor Swift concerts this summer with no transportation issues. Regular meetings with NJ Transit, the MTA, Long Island Railroad and others already are happening.

Q: What about security?

A: Weekly meetings already are taking place among various state and federal agencies, including Homeland Security.

Q: What parts of New Jersey will be ‘activated’ for the event?

A: Numerous places throughout the state, but the main festival area figures to be Liberty State Park.

Q: Other than the final, what will be the biggest logistical challenge?

A: A game will be played on the Fourth of July in Philadelphia and July 5 in MetLife. Consider it will be the country’s 250th birthday — with events commemorating the date throughout the area — this should be the time with the most enthusiasm.

Q: How important was Gov. Phil Murphy to the area getting the final?

A: Huge. No area has an elected official who is a bigger soccer fan. And Murphy personally met with FIFA President Giovanni Infantino to pitch New Jersey.

Q: What was the governor’s big pitch on bringing the final to New Jersey?

A: Our location, diversity and values of the region. The governor specifically really made sure to get that message across to FIFA. And we really pushed the last few years to make sure that they understand that we are the right place to host the World Cup final.

Q: In the end, FIFA agreed. Have to ask: Did you know that New Jersey was going to get the final before it was announced?

A: No. We found out at the same time as everyone else. It was an incredible moment.