AT&T Stadium falls short of scoring World Cup final
Silence blanketed AT&T Stadium’s Ryan Club as FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced on a big screen that Arlington had lost its bid to host the 2026 World Cup final game to New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium.
The Feb. 4 announcement comes after more than a year of rumors that North Texas was the favorite to welcome the tournament finale.
However, the home of the Cowboys will still accommodate nine matches, including a semifinal — the most games of any host city across the United States, Mexico and Canada.
In a press conference following the announcement, athletes, mayors and other officials involved with the tournament’s planning said although losing the final match is disappointing, there are many benefits to hosting nine matches.
Officials have compared the economic impact of one World Cup game to that of hosting a Super Bowl.
“I think with those nine games, FIFA and the world will see why we got more games than anybody else,” said Arlington Mayor Jim Ross.
Planning officials for the North Texas host site have touted the region’s resources for hosting events with large crowds in Arlington’s Entertainment District and say they can plan around the city’s lack of mass public transit options.
When asked whether the lack of transportation around the stadium could have contributed to Arlington losing the bid, Ross said that moving traffic in and out of the stadium will not be an issue.
“We have public transportation,” Ross said. “We have a ride-share program that gets people around just fine. But just because we don’t assign ourselves to a particular transit authority at this particular moment, people think. ‘Is that going to be a problem?’ Absolutely not.”
Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, told the Report that the amount of matches allocated is a reflection of the region’s capabilities. At this time, around $20 million is expected to be invested in infrastructure projects around the stadium in preparation for the tournament.
“I’m pretty sure we’re carrying nine games because of what FIFA knows this region can deliver, including all the redundancy that we have in our transportation plan. So. I think they are sending a signal back to us,” Morris said.
Arlington is also constructing several new hotels in the area to accommodate visitors to its Entertainment District. By the time the World Cup arrives in two summers, the city will have added 1,000 more rooms, Ross told the Fort Worth Report.
Another hurdle for the stadium was the conversion of the turf to grass as required for the games. In the past, the pitch was covered with a mat of natural grass that led to player injuries after their cleats were caught on the seams of the mat.
The Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones family announced they are exploring a grow light system for grass in consultation with FIFA, according to the Star-Telegram.
Jones told reporters that he will do what must be done to get the field prepared, no matter the cost.
“We will, as far as anything we can do in our organization, or as far as our venue is concerned, we will act like it’s the final game. And every game, we will act like it’s the final game,” he said.
FIFA has yet to announce which city will be home to the International Broadcast Center and the Referees Headquarters, as well as base camps for visiting national teams. If the region wins any of those, it could bring more dollars and eyes to the area.
Regional planning officials have told KERA and the Report they will use the 2024 MLB All-Star Game as a trial run for World Cup readiness.
Kailey Broussard from KERA News contributed to this report.
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ssadek19.