ARLINGTON, Texas — The 2026 World Cup will be the largest sporting event we've ever seen, and the burning question everyone wants to know: Who will host the final?
The host cities must make bids to FIFA for the final match, and AT&T Stadium in Arlington is among those pushing for that honor. Other frontrunners competing to be the World Cup final venue are Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), New York (MetLife Stadium), and Los Angeles (SoFi Stadium).
A recent report from The Sunday Times in the United Kingdom states that SoFi Stadium may not be able to meet the proper requirements. According to the report, SoFi's field is too narrow, and widening it would remove seats that would drop the maximum capacity below FIFA’s minimum requirement of 80,000 seats.
AT&T Stadium has a similar playing field dimension issue, so Dallas' fix is to raise the field level to accommodate a wider playing surface.
Even with the elevated field, which would take some of the capacity out, the stadium's capacity still won't be an issue. AT&T Stadium is listed at 80,000 capacity but is expandable to 105,000.
The FIFA delegation visited Dallas on March 16 to tour AT&T Stadium, Dallas Sports Commission officials confirmed to WFAA, as part of its "regular check-in process" with host cities. FIFA representatives also visited Dallas in August of 2022.
Cowboys sources confirmed to WFAA in December 2022 that they planned on making $295 million worth of renovations over the next couple of years.
As reported by the Sports Business Journal, the bulk of the planned $295 million worth of renovations will not radically alter the stadium. Rather, the money will be used to refresh the venue ahead of some lease rentals, and to upgrade technology and other services ahead of the next World Cup.
AT&T Stadium was reported to be the World Cup final venue back in September of 2022 by ESPN Deportes reporters, but local officials quickly downplayed those reports.
FC Dallas owner Dan Hunt, who chairs the Dallas bid committee, told the Dallas Morning News that FIFA is expected to announce the site of the final and how many matches will be played at AT&T Stadium in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Hunt has stated on numerous occasions that the economic impact of hosting each World Cup is the equivalent to a Super Bowl. So the more, the better. But it's the illustrious final that everyone covets.
Another feather in the cap that could sweeten the bid for Dallas in FIFA's eyes was the designation by the Sports Business Journal as America's top market for sports business. Dallas prevailed as the top dog in this report over the cities it's competing against for the World Cup final. New York finished second and Los Angeles came in sixth.
Per the report, the economic environment category set Dallas and the surrounding region apart from the field, with specific mentions of AT&T Stadium.
“This is an area where Dallas was exceptionally good,” SBJ’s Senior Market Analyst Derick Ross said. “Dallas had the highest score of any city in our study. When you think about AT&T Stadium and how that has become one of the great facilities of the world. The Rangers have a new ballpark. There is even a new cricket facility. So just the breadth and diversity of all the facilities make it an environment really conducive to sports business.”
FIFA recently approved a new format for the 2026 World Cup, increasing the amount of games that will be played. The organization created a 104-game schedule that will last nearly six weeks in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The 16 host cities — 11 in the United States, three in Mexico and two in Canada — now have 24 extra games to stage on top of the 80 they already had for the inaugural 48-team tournament.
The 2026 World Cup was already set to earn up to $3 billion in ticket and hospitality sales for FIFA, and massively increase the tournament attendance record.
The final is scheduled for July 19. Will it be in Jerry World? One thing is for sure: Dallas-Fort Worth is on the short list.
Editor's note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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