MetLife Stadium officials plan to cut 1,740 seats to expand the field for World Cup games as they hope to host the 2026 final, but will retain a narrower area for this year’s Copa América.
The stadium in suburban East Rutherford, New Jersey, joins AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, as contenders for the final of the expanded 48-nation, 104-game World Cup on July 19, 2026.
“I speak on behalf of New Jersey, but also as our partner in New York City. “Don’t underestimate how aggressive we are to get the best possible package of games,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a recent phone interview.
FIFA has not set a date for announcing the venues of specific games and cannot provide details about renovations at other stadiums, spokesman Lenny Santiago said. For the 1994 tournament, FIFA announced the venues of certain games in June 1992 and awarded the final to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Heimo Schirgi, who replaced Colin Smith as the World Cup’s chief operating officer last July, could not be reached for comment. Unlike the 1994 World Cup, FIFA will hold the 2026 tournament itself without a local organizing committee.
“The few stadiums that require capital projects are handling each project differently – some venues plan to complete the work over multiple NFL offseasons, while others plan to complete everything at once sometime by spring 2026,” FIFA said in a statement.
MetLife, which opened in 2010, saw a high sports viewership of 83,367 for a Jets-Giants NFL game in October, and the World Cup bid estimated capacity at 74,895. The current size for soccer games is 70 by 115 yards (64 by 105 meters), spokeswoman Helen Strus said.
Strus said construction work will take place in the corners and extend along the touchline, although pitch-level club areas will not be affected. The removed seats are in the corners and will be replaced by seats in removable sections after the World Cup. Murphy said who will cover the construction costs is under negotiation.
“The FIFA kickback regulations really only affect MetLife in the corners. “Other stadiums have a much tougher challenge because they have to reset the entire perimeter,” Murphy said. “Fifa wants a deal that works for them. New Jersey and New York City – remember our partners New York City – we are clearly ready to put serious effort into play. In fact, we have already done it.”
FIFA requires a pitch of 75 x 115 yards (68 x 105 meters) for World Cup matches, although this requirement was ignored by some venues during the 1994 tournament. Both MetLife and AT&T must replace artificial turf with grass, as do stadiums in Atlanta; Foxboro, Mass.; Houston; Inglewood, California; and Seattle.
MetLife’s closer field was used for the 2016 Copa América final, which Chile won on penalties against Argentina, and will be used for three games in this summer’s South American championship: the Argentina-Chile and Uruguay-Bolivia group stage games, as well as a semifinal on July 9th -Final.
Murphy also hopes UEFA will host a European Champions League final at MetLife.
“We could sell 10 stadiums worth of UEFA Champions League final tickets,” he said. “We would welcome the opportunity, and I have said many times that I welcome the opportunity, to also host at MetLife what we in the U.S. would call regular season league games for one of the major European leagues.”
Joe Trahan, a spokesman for the Dallas Cowboys, which operates AT&T Stadium, declined comment on the dimensions and possible changes. He referred questions to FIFA and the Dallas Sports Commission, which did not respond to emails seeking comment.
FIFA awarded the 2026 tournament to the USA, Mexico and Canada in 2018 and announced the 16 host cities in 2022.
All 11 U.S. stadiums for the World Cup are home to NFL teams, using fields measuring 53.3 x 120 yards (49 x 110 meters).
Giants Stadium, adjacent to the site where MetLife was built, hosted seven games in 1994, including Bulgaria’s quarterfinal loss to defending champions Germany and Italy’s semifinal victory over Bulgaria. At the 1994 tournament, government officials closed the Lincoln Tunnel to regular traffic to allow FIFA executives quicker access from Manhattan.
“I think we’re going to do the right thing when it comes to the VIPs that need to be promoted,” Murphy said. “We’re going to do it in a way that doesn’t upset the regulars, but we’re also going to do it in a way – we’re committed to FIFA that we move people quickly,” and with that proper care.”