Gillette Stadium will go back to grass for FIFA World Cup

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has reportedly committed to restoring the natural grass playing surface at Gillette Stadium in order to bring FIFA World Cup football to the venue in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The Kraft Group, which owns the stadium, would also remove sideline seating at the venue to ensure compliance with pitch regulations, according to the Boston Globe.

Kraft and Gillette Stadium executives were joined on Wednesday by officials from FIFA, football’s global governing body, who have embarked on a nine-city tour across North America.

The United States will co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup with Mexico and Canada. A total of 16 stadiums will be used across the three countries, and competition to become a host venue for the tournament is intensifying ahead of the expected final decision by the end of this year on the 11 US stadiums that will be used.

The newspaper said that whilst infrastructure would be “costly”, Gillette Stadium officials are confident such an outlay can be justified by the anticipated prestige and exposure that would be generated by hosting World Cup games.

Kraft, who is the honorary chair of the 2026 World Cup United Bid Group, had a grass pitch installed at the former Foxboro Stadium specifically for the 1994 World Cup in the US after taking control of the Patriots earlier that year.

Kraft said in an on-field press conference: “We look forward to hosting, hopefully, six games here and the quarterfinals like we did back in ‘94 when we had Italy versus Spain.”

The process at Gillette Stadium would involve the existing synthetic surface being ripped out and a dormant irrigation system being revived. No timelines have been disclosed about the possible work, and it is unclear how many seats would need to be removed at the side of the pitch.

“We play the World Cup on natural grass and we have a standard pitch size that we use for international games,” said Colin Smith, FIFA’s chief tournaments and events officer. “We need a bit more space around that, given the scale of World Cup matches with photographers, cameras, security.”

Image: Nathan Macoul on Unsplash