MetLife Stadium
Photo by Izaac Crayton on Unsplash

MetLife Stadium to host 2026 World Cup Final

On Sunday afternoon, FIFA announced that the 2026 Men’s World Cup final is set to take place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on July 19, 2026. The special, televised on Fox and Telemundo, gave details about the match schedule of the competition to be co-hosted for the first time by three countries: Canada, Mexico, and the United States, the latter celebrating its 250th anniversary that year.

The 82,000-seat venue—temporarily renamed “New York New Jersey Stadium” due to FIFA’s corporate sponsorship policies—is set to host seven other matches before then starting on Saturday, June 13, 2026. Among the proposed modifications to it is the removal of 1,740 seats.

The 23rd edition of the tournament will be the first to feature 48 teams in its first upgrade since 1998. The New York New Jersey region is one of 16 host cities—11 in the U.S.—that are set to host matches. The June 11 opening match was designated to the legendary Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, which hosted the opening and finals of the 1970 and 1986 tournaments in which Brazil’s Pelé and Diego Maradona of Argentina—widely considered to be among the best players of all time—lifted the trophy in the prime of their careers, respectively.

Aside from the automatically-qualified three hosts, 45 other national teams will qualify through regional play over a three-year period that started last September. Only after the final draw, scheduled for December 2025 will it be known where exactly they will play. Team USA will be playing their first three matches on the West Coast, first on Friday, June 12 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., next on Friday, June 19 in Seattle, and finally Thursday, June 25 back in Southern California. Co-hosts Canada will play their opener in Toronto and last two group matches in Vancouver.

As per the 2018 bid book, four possible venue-specific training sites could be used for teams coming to play at East Rutherford; they are the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, the New York Red Bulls training complex in Whippany, the Pingry School in Short Hills (which hosted Italy in 1994,) and the New York City FC training complex in Orangeburg, Rockland County, New York. The respective suggested team hotels are in Hoboken, Short Hills, West Orange, and Teaneck. 

Kean University in Union Township and The Pingry School at Basking Ridge (same school as the one in West Orange) has been put forth as possible sites for Team Base Camps, where a team would stay for the duration of the tournament and travel to and from for specific matches. Teams training at Kean would be lodged in Woodbridge, while those at Pingry would stay in Basking Ridge.

The FIFA Fan Fest, public official displays of matches on large open-air screens, have become a mainstay of the World Cup experience ever since their introduction at the 2006 championship in Germany. The bid proposed they be held at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, across the water from Manhattan, as well as at Central Park. Work is also being done to improve infrastructure in the region time, including the proposed New Jersey Transitway, which aims to connect the Meadowlands to the Secaucus Junction station in time for the games.

The 2026 games will be the United States’ second time hosting, having organized the tournament in 1994. These will be Mexico’s third and Canada’s first-ever. The bid was launched with a memorandum of understanding between U.S. Soccer, the sport’s national governing body, and its counterparts in Canada and Mexico in 2017. The bid was officially selected by FIFA at its congress in June of 2018 ahead of that year’s World Cup in Russia. The 23 host cities in the bid—notably missing Chicago—were narrowed down to 16 in a televised announcement in June 2022, followed by a similarly-fashioned logo reveal in May 2023. 

New Jersey hosted seven matches in 1994, one less than in 2026, including a semifinal where Italy and their superstar Roberto Baggio eliminated a surprise Bulgarian side led by F.C. Barcelona player Hristo Stoichkov. Five years later, the Women’s World Cup would open there with a 4-0 victory of the hosts and eventual champions, the first goal scored by the legendary Mia Hamm. These matches were at the old Giants Stadium, demolished in 2009 to make way for the current structure.

Since, the new stadium has hosted four editions of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the continental championships for North, Central America, and the Caribbean as well as three matches at Copa América Centenario, including the final. At that match, Lionel Messi’s Argentina lost their third-straight final at a major tournament on penalties to Chile, who defended their title form the previous year. The team has since won the last World Cup and will enter the 2026 tournament as reigning champions, albeit most likely without Messi.

World Cup Just One of Many Big Events Coming to US

The 2026 World Cup will be one of the bigger events of the many scheduled to be held in the U.S. in the next decade. The 2024 Copa América will also be held in the country and at MetLife Stadium from June 20 to July 14. Only two years after the World Cup, the 2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in Los Angeles, marking a return of the summer games to American shores after 32 years, 26 for the Olympics as a whole. 

Jersey Sporting News will have continued coverage of all World Cup happenings throughout the New York/New Jersey area.