Last month, the English newspaper The Sun sent the soccer world into pandemonium by reporting that AT&T Stadium would host the 2026 FIFA World Cup Final. The same went for us in North Texas: it would be a very, very big deal for The House That Jerry Built to host the biggest sporting event on Earth.
Perhaps the writing should have been on the wall when no one confirmed it. Craig Davis, the president and CEO of VisitDallas—the city’s visitors bureau—told Tim Rogers prior to Sunday’s announcement, “We’ve heard gossip from those involved in the bid that the British media first published the Dallas news because FIFA leaked it in an effort to get New York City to up their bid. Not saying that’s true. Just saying there were rumors.”
That didn’t stop virtually everyone locally from presuming that North Texas would be the choice heading into Sunday afternoon’s World Cup scheduling announcement. As it turns out, it should have: FIFA stunned the assembled crowd at AT&T Stadium by announcing MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, as the host venue for the Final.
“It was a hell of a battle, and we almost got there,” Jerry Jones said in a press conference immediately following FIFA’s decision.
There’s plenty of good news. AT&T Stadium will host nine games over the 56-day tournament, the most matches of any host venue. Those include Match 11 on June 14, Match 22 on June 17, Match 43 on June 22, Match 57 on June 25, and Match 70 on June 27. Arlington will also host two round-of-32 matches, one quarterfinal matchup, and one semifinal matchup.
“Honestly in all of our projections, we never had nine matches that we were looking at,” Monica Paul, the executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission, told the media after the World Cup schedule was announced. “To know that DFW was in the conversation from the beginning, that we were considered for the final, is a big win in and of itself.”
The 2026 World Cup will be the first to feature 48 teams. The group phase will include 72 matches, with teams split into four groups of 12. The top two teams from each group and eight third-place teams will advance to the round of 32. A total of 104 matches will be played—up from 80 in years prior.
Prior to the World Cup, AT&T Stadium is set to undergo at least $295 million in renovations, although Jones said the final bill is still in flux. The renovations will partly include $180 million allocated for an interior refresh of premium clubs and suites with new millwork and finishes. The projected completion date is July 31, 2025. AT&T Stadium will likely extract about 3,000 seats for the matches.
Other U.S. host cities in the 2026 FIFA World Cup include Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle. Toronto and Vancouver will host matches in Canada, while Mexico’s host sites include Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterrey. North Texas officials are already thinking about the possibilities that come from hosting more matches than any other site.
“The benefit of having nine matches is that we will have more visiting national teams pick DFW as their home training center,” Dan Hunt, the president of FC Dallas, told the media. “We’re still waiting on the location of the referee headquarters and international broadcast center to be designated, so this region really still has the opportunity to be the epicenter of the 2026 World Cup.”
Did Transportation Play Into FIFA’s Decision?
For those inside North Texas’ bid, public transportation was a worry from the start. “Because we don’t have a rail system that goes out to Arlington, we thought that was going to be a big negative,” Paul told D CEO. So perhaps that tipped the scales in favor of the tri-state area. (Officials have not engaged with FIFA following the decision, but should receive feedback within the coming weeks.)
Still, Paul left conversations with FIFA under the impression that the region’s lack of public transportation did not seem to bother the global soccer body.
“We’ve been able to work with the North Central Texas Council of Governments to put a plan together to get the funding necessary to utilize the system that we currently have and then obviously have a significant bus presence. That seemed to be a suitable plan for FIFA,” Paul told D CEO last month. “So, public transportation was not as much of a negative, or as big of a problem, in their eyes.”
Speaking to the media on Sunday, Arlington Mayor Jim Ross defended his city’s transportation infrastructure.
“Arlington does have a public transportation system, we’re just not assigned to a transit authority,” he said. “And there’s absolutely not a problem with that. We’ve done the Super Bowl and we’ve done three Taylor Swift concerts in a row—that’s almost as big as a World Cup—so, events like this are something that happens on a regular basis. Our traffic management people are second to none.”
Locally, the economic impact should be enormous. Original forecasts projected the region could see $400 million of economic impact from the event, a number that Paul believes is now low. “All the calculations we’re running, which factor into account various other events like fan fests and corporate activations, is showing a much higher number than $400 million,” Paul said.
In 2022, Hunt even suggested the figure could finish with an extra zero: “Should AT&T Stadium host six or seven games, we’re going to be talking about billions in economic impact,” he said.
With North Texas now hosting nine matches, it wasn’t a surprise to hear Hunt double down on his optimism: “It will be like hosting nine Super Bowls.”
As of right now, financing for the event will be raised privately. “It’s our goal not to have to go to the city governments and ask for money to assist in putting this on,” Paul said. “We have the ability to sell 10 host-city-supporter agreements to corporations, individuals, or other nonprofits. We will work with FIFA on the list and iron out our sellable assets, such as tickets, fan fest activations, legacy programs, and ancillary events. In late 2024, we will set up our donor program, and we’re looking at raising more than $100 million.”
But it is a tall task for the region to churn a profit. According to a study conducted by Switzerland’s University of Lausanne, four out of five Olympics and World Cups ran at a deficit. Of the 14 World Cups analyzed, only Russia’s in 2018 generated a profit, the study found. The study fails to break financials down by city, but local officials still believe North Texas will not be in the red.
“The city and region are going to be profitable, even with the expenses we incur,” Paul said.
Hunt took that a step further: “Monica does not make promises she can’t execute on.”
The implications could stretch well beyond 2026. North America has a bid out to host the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup or the 2031 edition. If North Texas executes the men’s tournament according to plan, it would be a significant feather in the region’s cap in an attempt to chase after the women’s final down the road.