Why North Texas has a good chance to host the biggest game in soccer

AT&T Stadium is a finalist for the site of the 2026 FIFA World Cup final.

By Michael MarksJanuary 22, 2024 1:31 pm, ,

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be a very North American affair. 

The United States, Canada and Mexico will collectively host world soccer’s big show. Matches will be played across 16 cities, including Toronto, Monterrey, Houston and the Dallas area – which may be the site of the tourney’s climax.

The Sun, a British tabloid, reported last week that the 2026 World Cup final will be played at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. FIFA officials did not confirm the report, and anonymous sources told ESPN that officials are still deciding between Dallas and East Rutherford, N.J., just outside New York City.

Bob Sturm, co-host of The Hardline on 1310 The Ticket in Dallas, talked to the Texas Standard about why North Texas is an attractive option for the big game.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: As sports nerd news goes, this has got to be a biggie, certainly for you, I would think?

Bob Sturm: Yeah, it’s unbelievable, to be honest. I certainly am familiar with Arlington, and I am certainly familiar with the World Cup. The idea that they would ever merge and play the biggest sporting event in the world less than 15 minutes from where I live is is absolutely bonkers to consider.

For folks who don’t know, in case they’re in other parts of the state, AT&T Stadium is actually in Arlington, about halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth. What do you think makes it so attractive as a potential site for a World Cup final?

That’s a great question, because having traveled parts of the world to see soccer at its natural habitat in the UK and so forth, AT&T Stadium does not resemble it at all. So what makes it attractive, I’m guessing, is an enormous number of luxury suites and revenue-generating possibilities – and probably a retractable roof, although honestly, worldwide soccer doesn’t really even have that.

It’s probably Jerry Jones and friends promising that they could find a way to make it the normal spectacle that he can with probably 100,000 people coming to see that match. And so, in its own way, it does make plenty of sense. But if you are a soccer historian, it will also, you know, disappoint in terms of being an NFL Stadium for the World Cup final.

» MORE: Texas soccer fans rejoice as Arlington, Houston are named 2026 World Cup host cities

Take us inside AT&T Stadium a bit: Infrastructure-wise, do you think the arena – and the area itself – are ready to host an event like this?

It’s certainly a conversation, as AT&T Stadium has very little, if any, mass transit access. And that’s quite annoying to those of us in the DFW area, that we can take a train or avoid parking on site for just about any place we want to go in DFW except Arlington, because they do not participate in the mass transit. And the cynical of us, which I am certainly a leader among them, would argue that this is so Jerry Jones can collect $75 to $125 per vehicle that tries to park outside the stadium.

As far as the stadium itself, it’s probably the most luxurious sporting edifice that you’ll ever see. The dining options, the comfort of the seats, the giant video boards – for the affluent, they will not feel any sort of need for, you know, umbrellas or coats or anything of that nature. It’s unbelievable.

It’s like you’re in an auditorium watching a symphony. Whether that’s conducive to sports, we could argue for sure, because I don’t know if it’s how it’s intended.

I have to say, the source of this news certainly gave me pause; I presume it’ll give other listeners pause. This is coming from a British tabloid. Do you think it’s for real?

I think it’s for real, because certainly Dallas has been attempting to get this for quite some time, and we heard months and months and months ago that this is happening. And the British tabloid, obviously, if it was a standalone thing, I would suggest that we should be skeptical.

But the fact that Dallas, I feel like, has been feeling great about their chances and just needing for FIFA to sign off on it – and now that we’ve reached this level to where the first weekend in February, we’re supposed to get an official announcement – I do feel like this is a great indicator that the work behind the scenes has borne fruit, I suppose.

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Well, you’re not just a fan, obviously. You know a lot about the backstory of the game and its history.

I’m thinking back to the U.S. hosting the World Cup in 1994 – a lot of folks point to that as a turning point for American soccer that got more kids interested in the game, boosted the level of competition, certainly visibility. What about 2026? You think something similar might happen?

Well, I think it’s just two points in the road that would indicate the the enormous growth in the last 30 years. So, yes, this will be a trampoline for soccer in North America. But I think if we compare 94 to 2026, we would see that the trampoline is not nearly as required as it was back then.

Back then, it was a foreign entity; it was a far-away sport that you could learn about, but it was very rare to see soccer on TV. Now it’s on every channel, every day. You can watch every league in the world in the United States without much trouble. There are enthusiasts all over Texas for clubs they will never see in person because they’re 5,000 miles away.

So I do think soccer has taken a real flight in the last 30 years in this country. I think the domestic league is in a healthy place – [Lionel] Messi plays in Major League Soccer now, just to tell you how crazy things are. The growth is off the charts, and I think it will continue its upward trajectory because of this, event, for sure.

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