The 2026 World Cup final scheduled for MetLife Stadium in the USA begins play in Los Angeles

The 2026 World Cup final scheduled for MetLife Stadium in the USA begins play in Los Angeles

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) announced on Sunday that the 2026 World Cup final will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on July 19.

The US Men’s National Team begins its journey to the 2026 World Cup in Los Angeles, playing its first group stage match at SoFi Stadium on June 12. The Americans will play all of their group stage matches on the West Coast, with the next two matches. The games are in Seattle and back in Los Angeles.

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“It will be a special World Cup,” Berhalter said after the announcement. “Having the final in New York, New Jersey is a dream come true for me. Being from that area, as I’m sure most people in that area are, is an area with a rich tradition of football and producing players.

“When I was young, I used to watch the (New York) Cosmos sell out Giants Stadium, and now this stadium is going to host the World Cup Final. It’s really special.”

The opening match of the tournament, hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada, will be held in Mexico City, where Mexico will play a yet-to-be-determined opponent in its group, while the rest of its matches will be played at home. This is the third time that Mexico has hosted World Cup matches, after being the host country in 1970 and 1986.

Canada will host its first-ever Men’s World Cup match on June 12 when it begins group play in Toronto, followed by two games in Vancouver.

The semifinals are scheduled to be held on July 14 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the following day at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The quarterfinal matches will be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, on July 9, at SOFI Stadium in Inglewood, California, the next day, and at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on July 11. The third-place match will be held at Hard Rock on July 18.

The US team will train in the suburbs of Atlanta before the tournament.

When asked about his team starting in Los Angeles and playing its conference games on the West Coast, Berhalter had a one-word answer: “Awesome.”

The American coach then added: “When you think about Los Angeles, the famous soccer city that has already hosted three World Cup finals for men in 1994 and women’s in 1999 and again in 2003. Then you think about Southern California’s rich tradition of producing tons of players for our program.

“Then you think about the LA Galaxy, LA FC, SOFI Stadium, you have a lot going on in LA and it’s definitely a great place, so we’re excited about that.”

FIFA’s goal in establishing the schedule was to do everything possible to maximize player well-being and fan experience. The tournament will be held in three countries and across four time zones, providing significant challenges to ensure players are at their best and fans can follow the teams of their choice.

For these reasons, FIFA consulted many stakeholders to ensure it planned for as many scenarios as possible.

These stakeholders within FIFA included experts in competition management, team services, ticketing and hospitality as well as medical services. Stakeholders outside FIFA included broadcasters, sponsors, national team coaches and technical directors as well as their medical staff. The technical staff of the three host countries also made significant contributions in the group stage stadiums.

FIFA took note of the 2016 Copa America Centenary, which was also held in the United States. In that tournament, coast-to-coast flights between matches were not unusual, with nine of the sixteen teams making at least one flight. Paraguay suffered two such trips in the group stage alone. These long trips have affected players’ recovery and preparation time, and have also made it difficult for fans to follow their teams.

Due to travel distances and climate differences, FIFA has divided the stadiums into three zones: East, Central and West, with teams operating from a base camp in the same zone as their matches. This will give FIFA flexibility regarding actual kick-off times to better meet the needs of local and global fans.

In addition, FIFA has ensured that teams have three full days of rest between matches. Out of 104 matches, the only exception to this guideline will be the third place match at the end of the tournament.

FIFA did not announce the start dates of the match. The 1994 tournament started at 12:30 pm Pacific time (3:30 pm Eastern and 9:30 pm CET), but the start has been postponed in recent years as the television market in Asia has become more important to FIFA. The 2022 final in Qatar kicked off at 5pm local time (10am ET, 4pm CET, 10pm Beijing time).

Stadiums will be allocated to groups rather than individual matches in a bid to reduce travel requirements for competing teams.

But travel requirements will not be equal among the 48 teams. It will be weighted in favor of the teams that finish at the top of their group, with second-place finishers having less forgiving travel requirements, and third-place teams having more forgiving travel requirements.

FIFA will also take care of weather conditions. I looked at temperature and humidity readings in each of the 16 cities, which will affect the time of day when matches are played. After the group stage draw is held in December 2025, the final dates for the start of the tournament will be announced.

The 2026 tournament will feature 48 teams for the first time in history, after FIFA expanded the field from the 32 teams it had used since 1998. Only 24 teams competed in 1994, when the United States last hosted the men’s World Cup.

In 1994, the United States played two of its group stage matches at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and the other at the Silverdome in Detroit. The Rose Bowl also hosted the final that year — Brazil beat Italy on penalties — and again in 1999 at the Women’s World Cup, when the United States beat China on penalties as well.

With three host nations from CONCACAF, a further 45 teams will qualify for the World Cup through the various qualification processes of the six confederations.

UEFA (Europe) has 16 places; CAF (Africa) has nine; The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has eight; CONMEBOL (South America) has six; CONCACAF (North and Central America, plus the Caribbean) has three; And Oceania has one. Two additional countries will earn their places through a six-team play-off involving non-UEFA continental confederations, which will conclude on 18 November 2025.

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