Talking it out: N.Y./N.J. 2026 World Cup Host Committee says it has found willing partner in FIFA

Meeting this week in Toronto with FIFA and all host cities is latest example of how soccer’s governing body is working with New Jersey and other sites

Concerts in various locations. Galas on both sides of the river. Special events on Broadway and at area museums. Something cool at the Jersey Shore.

As the N.Y./N.J. 2026 World Cup Host Committee begins preparing for the world’s biggest sporting event — especially the July 19 final — it already is having discussions with FIFA about the numerous ways it could become a weeklong celebration.

And the key phrase, co-Host Committee Managers Lauren LaRusso and Bruce Revman said, is “having discussions.”

The idea that FIFA is controlling every aspect of the event — even making seemingly nonsensical demands such as free public transportation for ticket-holders — isn’t accurate, they both said.

“All the things you hear about FIFA being impossible to work with — or not open to working with — just aren’t true,” LaRusso said. “Everything is up for discussion. And, I would say FIFA has been very accommodating.”

Revman agreed.

“I think FIFA understands that their goals, their mission, and our mission and our goals are aligned — not just for the region, but to grow the game,” he said. “So, they oftentimes defer to us — on a lot of matters.”

These discussions happen in person more than you may think — considering FIFA is based in Europe and N.Y./N.J. is one of 16 cities across North America that will serve as a host.

This week, LaRusso and Revman — and representatives from all those cities — are in Toronto for the first of two big all-host-city meetings this year. Each of these meetings has a key subject. This week, it’s stadium preparation and security, but all issues are on the table.

In fact, it was at a previous meeting where concerns about FanFest hours came to the forefront. FIFA had originally said it wanted all FanFests in all cities to be open throughout the tournament, but cost issues raised by other host cities led to greater flexibility.

“FIFA said, ‘We hear you, we’ll make it optional now,’” LaRusso said.

This change will come into play in this region.

While Revman said the committee aims to have the FanFest open throughout the tournament, he admits it comes with challenges — not the least of which is staffing and cost (the host cities pick up all of it), especially in this region, where there are plans to have two major FanFests (one on each side of the Hudson River).

LaRusso and Revman also have used these meetings to push for more information from FIFA.

After learning a company called BaAM Productions had been established by FIFA to procure and deliver temporary infrastructure at the tournament’s 16 stadiums, LaRusso and Revman pushed for more information — in an effort to help local businesses.

“We kept pushing them on, ‘What is your process? How are you procuring? How does it work with your Tier 1 suppliers and your subcontractors? How can we get local suppliers in your supply chain?’” LaRusso said.

The result was a supply chain request for an expression of interest from FIFA.

“They listened to us,” LaRusso said. “We wanted a more transparent process, and FIFA listened.”

LaRusso and Revman said they are not surprised by all of this. They expected FIFA to be a true partner — and said they have been in the five years they have been working toward the event.

The story about free transportation to the games? LaRusso said that was just part of an initial contract that every bidding city had to sign to move to the next step.

“Everyone understood that there would be a process with FIFA once we became a host city — and that we would work through what’s required and what’s possible,” she said. “That’s how it’s been going.”

And how it will go this week in Toronto, later this year in another city — and, if Revman’s accurate, right up until the start of the final July 19.

“We know we’re going to be having negotiations up until July 18,” he said. “That’s OK, we expect that.”

Revman said it’s a matter of everyone trying to reach the same goal.

“I have seen Lauren negotiate with FIFA,” he said. “And it hasn’t been just what’s good for New Jersey and New York. Everything we’re trying to do is for the good of the World Cup.

“They know our interests are in lockstep with what they’re trying to do. We’re just trying to do the right thing.”

Which brings us back to the week of the final.

It’s not at the top of the list of discussions just yet. But the opportunities for parties and festivals like the World Cup has never seen certainly are possible.

It’s just a matter of talking it out.