MetLife Stadium wins race to host World Cup final

Featured image credit: Myron Mott on Unsplash

MetLife Stadium has seen off competition from AT&T Stadium to land hosting rights for the 2026 FIFA World Cup final, with the opening match to be held at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets, will host the final on Sunday, July 19. The tournament will begin in Mexico City on Thursday, June 11, with Guadalajara’s Estadio Akron to also host a match on the opening day.

Estadio Azteca will make history by becoming the first stadium to host the opening match of the World Cup three times, having done so in 1970 and 1986. The following day, the first matches in the US and Canada will be held at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium and Toronto’s BMO Field, respectively.

The first match in each host country will involve its respective national team, meaning that Mexico will feature in the opening fixture. Canada, Mexico and the US will be guaranteed to play their group-stage matches at home.

FIFA announced the 16 host cities for the 2026 World Cup back in June 2022. It will be the first edition of the tournament to feature 48 teams, with 104 matches to be played in total.

MetLife Stadium has been selected to host the final ahead of AT&T Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, which will host a semi-final. Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host the other semi-final, while the third-place play-off, dubbed the ‘bronze final’ by FIFA, will take place at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

From the quarter-final stage onwards, all matches will take place in the US. The only round-of-16 matches outside of the US will be at Vancouver’s BC Place and the Estadio Azteca.

SoFi Stadium had also been in the running to host the final but reports emerged last year that the venue could be ruled out due to its pitch being too narrow. The stadium will host eight matches in total, including five group-stage fixtures and a quarter-final.

Although it missed out on the final, AT&T Stadium will host nine matches during the World Cup – more than any other venue. 

The first two days of the tournament will feature two matches per day, and the final four days of the group stage will feature six fixtures per day. All other group-stage match days will feature four matches per day across four kick-off times.

Despite the large distances between venues, FIFA said the tournament’s match schedule has been organised to minimise travel for teams and fans. Four cities will make up the Western Region (Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles), six will be in the Central Region (Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey, Houston, Dallas and Kansas City), and six will be in the Eastern Region (Atlanta, Miami, Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia and New York/New Jersey).

Match pairings and kick-off times will be confirmed following the final draw for the tournament, which is expected to take place towards the end of 2025.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: “The most inclusive and impactful FIFA World Cup ever is no longer a dream but a reality that will take shape in the form of 104 matches in 16 state-of-the-art stadiums across Canada, Mexico and the USA. From the opening match at the iconic Estadio Azteca to the spectacular final in New York/New Jersey players and fans have been at the core of our extensive planning for this game-changing tournament.”

It will mark the third time Mexico has hosted the World Cup, while the US has staged the tournament once before, in 1994. Canada has never hosted the event, although it hosted the Women’s World Cup in 2015.

None of the host venues from the 1994 World Cup will be used in 2026. All 11 US stadiums are home to NFL teams.