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World Cup

2026 World Cup: Gillette Stadium to host quarterfinal, seven games in total

FIFA visited Gillette Stadium in 2021 as it was being considered to host games for the 2026 World Cup.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The World Cup might not be better than ever in 2026, but it will be bigger. The 48-team event will kick off with games in Guadalajara and Mexico City on June 11 and conclude with the final at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on July 19.

Gillette Stadium will play host to seven matches, one more than Foxboro Stadium had during the 1994 World Cup.

MetLife Stadium won out over AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., in a decision announced by FIFA via television Sunday, more than a year and a half after venues were finalized.


The 23rd FIFA Men’s World Cup will include 104 games over 40 days — 40 more games over eight more days than the 2022 edition. The expansion risks diluting the competition, especially for qualifying and first-round matches, in addition to straining the already crowded international soccer calendar.

But the extra dates mean there will be five group stage games (June 13, 16, 19, 23, and 26) at Gillette Stadium, plus a second-round game (June 29) and a quarterfinal (July 9). Only four venues (Arlington/Dallas, Atlanta, New York/New Jersey, and Los Angeles) were awarded more games than the Boston/Foxborough area.

Co-host countries Canada, Mexico, and the United States qualify automatically, and will contest the first round on home soil. The United States will play at SoFi Stadium on June 12 and 25 and in Seattle on June 19. Mexico plays the opening match of the tournament at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, which also played host to World Cup openers in 1970 and ‘86, on June 11, and then will be in Guadalajara and Monterrey. Canada begins play in Toronto on June 12, then plays twice in Vancouver.

Captain Christian Pulisic and coach Gregg Berhalter (right) helped lead the US team as far as the Round of 16 in the 2022 World Cup.ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

“For us, it’s about making our nation proud,” US coach Gregg Berhalter said. “When I think about the dreams our players had growing up and playing for local clubs, and now they’re at some of the biggest clubs in Europe. And, now, it’s about coming back united and trying to grow the game.


“And one way to really grow the game and to change soccer in America forever is to perform well and do something that no US team has ever done before.”

Since reaching the semifinals at the inaugural World Cup in 1930, the best finish for the United States has been a quarterfinal appearance under former Revolution coach Bruce Arena in 2002.

FIFA struggled with planning, initially proposing an 80-game schedule with 16 three-team groups. It settled on 12 four-team groups, with the top two in each group and eight third-place finishers advancing to the second round. The organization has attempted to streamline the setup, but this has been difficult because of venues spread over three massive countries, along with a bloated field of teams.

Boston/Foxborough will be part of the East region, along with New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Toronto. The West will include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver. The Central will include five US sites — Atlanta, Arlington/Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, and Miami — and three in Mexico — Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Monterrey.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino (left) was on the stage in 2022 when Lionel Messi (center) and Argentina celebrated winning the World Cup in Qatar.Julian Finney/Getty

“This whole calendar has been designed to make sure that the fans can travel with the teams in a way that is not too burdensome,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said. “We have clusters and they can go and support their teams everywhere.”


Gillette Stadium and several other stadia will have to install grass fields, and also expand playing surfaces to meet width requirements. Toronto’s BMO Field, the tournament’s only soccer-specific stadium, is planning to expand seating capacity from 30,000 to 45,000.

Infantino said world-wide television viewership will top six billion and attendance is expected at a record-breaking six million.

The United States set World Cup crowd records in 1994, with 3,587,538 fans for 52 games (68,991 average). Foxboro Stadium drew more than 320,000 fans for six matches in 1994, topped by a crowd of 54,456 for a Bolivia-South Korea group-stage game. First-round matches at Foxboro included Argentina’s 2-1 win over Nigeria in what turned out to be Diego Maradona’s last international appearance, as he was suspended by FIFA.

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at frankdellapa@gmail.com.