The consideration of New Jersey to host the game comes as part of a winning North American bid to host the games. Under terms of the deal, the U.S. will host 60 games, while Mexico and Canada get 10 matches apiece.
After multiple published reports said New Jersey would host the 2026 championship game, MetLife Stadium issued the following statement: "FIFA will make the final selection of host cities and match locations for the 2026 FIFA World Cup from the 23 candidates proposed in the united bid. FIFA will make those decisions in 2020-2021. Metlife Stadium was included in the bid book as a recommended site for the final and we look forward to working with FIFA to finalize plans in the coming years."
Stadiums in 16 cities – stretching from Edmonton, Alberta (in Canada) to Mexico City – will serve as game venues. Ten of the sites, including the East Rutherford stadium, are in the U.S.; the balance are split evenly between Canada and Mexico.
Jim Kirkos, CEO of the Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau and Meadowlands Regional Chamber, said economic gains of hosting the event will start well before first kickoff.
“People always concentrate on the economic impact of the game itself,” Kirkos said. “People are fixated on that. Every time we get a big, high-profile event into MetLife or the Meadowlands it’s an enduring statement about our validity. You get the economic impact of branding your destination years before the event itself and then you get the post-success stories. The branding, PR and marketing effect is incredible.”
Gov. Phil Murphy released a statement expressing hope the North Jersey venue will be chosen to host some earlier matches, in addition to serving as the final-game venue.
"MetLife Stadium is an internationally renowned facility with first-class amenities,” Murphy said. “The Meadowlands region includes hundreds of hotels to house fans from all over the world and first-rate entertainment, shopping and dining, all just across the river from New York City."
Kirkos noted the area’s challenging past.
“People should remember the Meadowlands had suffered a whole bunch of black eyes in the last 10 years,” he said. “We lost the Devils, the Nets, the Izod Center and then the Xanadu project was taking forever. Now this is happening. Think about the impact when the American Dream project is completed,” he said, noting the project is 70 percent completed with an anticipated official opening in April 2019. “By the time 2026 comes around, we’ll not only have the American Dream open and successful but we’ll have hotels and other things. This area is blossoming; there’s a positive domino effect.”
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority also expressed its enthusiasm.
“The NJSEA is very excited that the united bid was selected to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” an NJSEA spokesperson said. “We are looking forward to the next steps in the process. The Meadowlands would be the perfect location for this prestigious event and the World Cup would provide a huge boost to the Meadowlands economy. The Meadowlands hosted the World Cup in 1994 and we have the know-how and infrastructure to carry out a very successful event once again.”
Kirkos ultimately envisions the construction of a convention center at the Meadowlands.
“If we get our way, we’ll get a convention center at the sports complex by 2026,” Kirkos said.