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MetLife Stadium to remove seats to boost 2026 World Cup claims

Featured image credit: Myron Mott on Unsplash

MetLife Stadium officials have said they would be prepared to downsize the venue in order to meet regulations for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and strengthen their chances of securing a prime package of games, including the final.

The facility, home to NFL franchises the New York Giants and Jets, is currently said to be vying with AT&T Stadium, which hosts the Dallas Cowboys, for the right to host the World Cup final, with FIFA yet to decide on how the tournament matches will be allocated.

All 11 US stadia for the World Cup are homes to NFL teams, which use playing fields of 53.3-by-120 yards. By contrast, world football’s governing body specifies that a 75-by-115 yard field is required for World Cup games.

MetLife, which opened in 2010, set a sports event attendance record of 83,367 for a Jets-Giants NFL game in October, with the World Cup bid book put forward by the joint hosts of the US, Mexico and Canada estimating a capacity of 74,895.

In order to meet World Cup standards, and boost the chances of landing the final, it has now emerged that MetLife Stadium officials plan to remove 1,740 seats to widen the field. “I speak on behalf of New Jersey but also as our partner of New York City, do not underestimate how aggressive we’re prepared to be to get the best package of games possible,” New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, told the Associated Press.

MetLife Stadium spokeswoman, Helen Strus, said construction will be in the corner and extend along the sidelines, but field-level club areas will not be impacted. The removed seats will be in the corners and will be replaced with seats in removable sections after the World Cup. Murphy added the question of who pays the cost of the construction was under negotiation.

FIFA is operating the tournament itself, without a local organising committee. “The few stadiums that require capital projects are handling each project differently — with some venues scheduling the work across multiple NFL offseasons, while others plan to complete everything at once sometime between now and spring 2026,” FIFA said in a statement.

Murphy added: “The FIFA setback provisions really impact MetLife only at the corners. Other stadiums have a much tougher nut where they have to set the entire perimeter back. FIFA wants a deal that works for them. New Jersey and New York City — remember our partners New York City — we’re prepared clearly to put serious skin in the game. In fact, we have already.”

In June last year, FIFA decided on the 16 cities that will host the 2026 tournament. Back in March, FIFA confirmed a further expansion of the World Cup by reverting back to the four-team group stage format.

In September, SoFi Stadium’s position as a host venue for the World Cup was placed in further question, amid a report that the Los Angeles venue’s owner, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE), was concerned over the terms of the deal.

The Athletic, citing multiple sources familiar with the talks, said tensions were rising between world football’s governing body and KSE, which also owns the Los Angeles Rams, one of the two NFL franchises that call SoFi Stadium home, along with the Chargers.

SoFi Stadium had been considered one of the candidates to host the World Cup final, but it was reported in March that this could be ruled out due to its pitch being too narrow. It is since said to have been overtaken for the rights to the showpiece game by AT&T Stadium and MetLife Stadium.

Meanwhile, Murphy has touted MetLife’s ability to host a UEFA Champions League final. “We would be able to sell 10 stadiums worth of tickets for the UEFA Champions League final,” he added.

“We would welcome the opportunity, and I’ve said many times I welcome the opportunity to host what we would call in the States regular-season league games for any of the big European leagues at MetLife, as well.”