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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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FIFA Admits Dallas Playing Surface A Concern For 2026 World Cup

  • Governing body conveys concerns about field holding up over entire tournament
  • AT&T Stadium, MetLife Stadium said to be top candidates for 2026 World Cup Final
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As Dallas continues its bid to host the 2026 World Cup Final, a late wrinkle has emerged: the field conditions of the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.

Like many other NFL facilities vying to host World Cup matches, AT&T Stadium plans to temporarily convert its artificial turf field to a natural-grass hybrid to comply with FIFA regulations. But even that plan is drawing scrutiny.

“We are looking at the pitch conversion and how that conversion is going to be done to make it a natural-grass surface that will actually survive the duration of the tournament, which is a huge challenge,” said Heimo Schirgi, FIFA COO, to the Dallas Morning News. 

The facility has used natural grass for other soccer events, but those temporary slabs of turf installed on cement have led to a series of complaints and injuries. For the World Cup, the Cowboys are planning a more complex system to allow for the planting of grass.

AT&T Stadium is said to be battling against New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium to host the event’s final match. Dallas officials are seeking to bolster their bid by positing the unprecedented idea of a ticketed event for 200,000 people incorporating the Texas Rangers’ current and former ballparks neighboring AT&T Stadium and also part of Arlington’s sports and entertainment complex.

The NFL itself, which is similarly grappling with a variety of field-related issues, is also looking to FIFA for advice.

Forthcoming Decisions

FIFA’s visit to Dallas this week was the last before the governing body is expected to announce its 2026 World Cup match sites and schedule before the end of the year.

“There is a lot of competition [for the final], which is always great,” Schirgi said. “We have the option that this great country has stadiums that could be a great potential venue for the final match.”

The 2026 World Cup will be the first with a 48-team format. 

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