MetLife gets '26 WC final, USMNT kicks off in L.A.



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The 2026 World Cup final will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on July 19, world soccer governing body FIFA announced on Sunday.

The United States men’s national team begins its 2026 World Cup journey in Los Angeles, playing its first group-stage game at SoFi Stadium on June 12. The Americans will play all of their group-stage matches on the West Coast, with the next two games in Seattle and back in Los Angeles.

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“It’s going to be a special World Cup,” Berhalter said after the announcement was made. “To have the final in New York, New Jersey is a dream come true for me. Being from that area, and I’m sure for most people from that area, it’s an area with a rich tradition of soccer and producing players.

“To think about when I was little, going to watch the [New York] Cosmos and them selling out Giants Stadium, and now this stadium is going to host a World Cup final. It’s really special.”

The opening match of the tournament — hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada — will be held in Mexico City, with Mexico playing a yet-to-be determined opponent in its group and the remainder of its matches on home soil. This will mark the third time Mexico has hosted World Cup matches, after serving as the host country in 1970 and 1986.

Canada will host its first-ever men’s World Cup match on June 12 when it starts group play in Toronto, followed by a pair of games in Vancouver.

The semifinals will be played on July 14 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the following day at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Quarterfinals will be at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on July 9, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, the following day, and at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on July 11. The third-place game will be at Hard Rock on July 18.

The U.S. team will train in suburban Atlanta ahead of the tournament.

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

The U.S. coach then added: “When you think about L.A., an iconic soccer city that’s already hosted three World Cup finals with the men’s in 1994 and the women’s in 1999 and again in 2003. Then you think about the rich tradition of southern California producing tons of players for our program.

“Then you think about the LA Galaxy, LAFC, SoFi Stadium, you’ve got a lot going on with L.A. and certainly an amazing venue, so we’re excited about that. With Seattle, you have a rich fan culture and an incredible atmosphere in the stadium. I get goosebumps thinking about it already.

“It’s not only about the cities hosting the World Cup, it’s about all the communities across America really getting behind us and creating this wave of support that really pushes the team to try to go and reach new heights.”

FIFA’s aim in laying out the schedule was doing what it could to maximize player welfare and the fan experience. The tournament will be held in three countries and across four time zones, providing considerable challenges in making sure players are at their best and fans can follow their chosen teams.

For those reasons, FIFA consulted several stakeholders to make sure 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. Stakeholders outside of FIFA included broadcasters, sponsors, national team coaches and technical directors along with their respective medical staffs. The technical staffs of the three host countries also had considerable input into their group-stage venues.

FIFA took note of the 2016 Copa America Centenario, which was also held in the United States. In that tournament, coast-to-coast flights between games weren’t unusual, with nine of the 16 teams enduring at least one such trip. Paraguay endured two such trips in the group stage alone. Those lengthy trips ate into player recovery time and preparation and also made it more difficult for fans to follow their teams.

Given the travel distances and the varying climates, FIFA divided the venues into three regions: east, central and west, with teams operating out of a base camp in the same region as their games. This will give FIFA flexibility in terms of actual kickoff times to better cater to both local and worldwide audiences.

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

FIFA did not announce kickoff times. The 1994 championship started at 12:30 p.m. PT (3:30 p.m. ET and 9:30 p.m. in Central Europe), but the start has been moved up in recent years as Asia’s television market became more significant to FIFA. The 2022 final in Qatar started at 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. ET, 4 p.m. in Central Europe and 10 p.m. in Beijing).

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

The travel demands won’t be equal across the 48 teams, however. They will be weighted in favor of teams that finish at the top of their group, with second-place finishers having less-forgiving travel requirements and third-place teams having the greatest travel demands.

FIFA will also be paying attention to weather conditions. It has looked at heat and humidity readings in each of the 16 venue cities, which will influence what time of day games will be held. Following the group-stage draw in December 2025, the final kickoff times will be announced.

The 2026 tournament will feature 48 teams for the first time in history, after FIFA expanded the field from the 32 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 — with Brazil topping Italy in a penalty shootout — and again in 1999 for the Women’s World Cup, when the United States beat China, also on penalties.

With three host nations from Concacaf, 45 other teams will advance to the World Cup through the six confederations’ various qualification processes.

UEFA (Europe) has 16 slots; CAF (Africa) has nine; AFC (Asia) 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 place through a six-team playoff involving the non-UEFA confederations, which will conclude Nov. 18, 2025.



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