So it will be a big leap of faith by FIFA if it awards the 2026 World Cup final to MetLife Stadium, as is expected by many. The fact they didn’t give it to the Meadowlands on Thursday during the host cities reveal was curious. Here’s to hoping the big show still comes to East Rutherford. But if the region doesn’t get the final and has to settle for undercard games, I can’t blame FIFA. And I’ll bet the trains make the difference.
I was there for the WrestleMania debacle. It was an awe-inspiring experience in disorganization, dysfunction and incompetence — and in a torrential downpour to boot. And that was in 2019, pre-coronavirus. This World Cup is going to be contested seven years later in a drastically different world. And it’s not like the infrastructure has gotten much better. Plus this event is drastically different from a Super Bowl. The crowd outside in the parking lot may be bigger than the crowd inside the stadium.
The MetLife bid group presumably presented FIFA with a comprehensive plan that included details on how to prevent another public transportation meltdown. They should start drilling that plan early and often over the next four years if they want the final. This would need to be the most organized undertaking since D-Day.
We need a Top Gun for train conductors. An accompanying army of buses. More greeters at Secaucus Junction than every Wal-Mart in the tri-state area combined. And an international publicity campaign to explain that MetLife Stadium is not in New York, no matter how much FIFA will want to pretend it is, and that you will need to plan ahead to get to the game. And no, the place is not a 30-minute drive from the city.
The wrestling fans joked about rioting. The soccer fans might actually riot. If MetLife is lucky enough to get the final, it cannot be another embarrassing disaster.
Some other World Cup thoughts …
If MetLife Stadium doesn’t host, Philadelphia should. It’s the semiquincentennial and Philly has all the infrastructure needed to host. If the tournament is going to start out west and progress east (which makes sense due to heat and weather), Philly is a much better fit than the New England bid (more on that later).
FedEx Field is now an international embarrassment. FIFA probably should have awarded games to the joint Baltimore/Washington bid. But let’s be straight here: FedEx Field is a colossal dump, and that’s why the nation’s capital got shut out of hosting.
Think about it: FIFA played a World Cup in Russia and it’s going to have one in Qatar, inside stadiums that were basically built with slave labor. And FedEx Field forced a shotgun bid merger. They have to get a new Washington stadium, and that isn’t going to happen as long as Daniel Snyder owns the Commanders.
The “Boston” bid is ridiculous. You can say the Meadowlands are on the outskirts of New York with a straight face, and there is reasonable public transportation between the two points (NJ Transit issues aside). But Foxborough is closer to Providence than it is to Boston, and there is no such infrastructure. This feels like the one host city that everyone is going to complain about; the World Cup version of putting a Super Bowl in Jacksonville. But we shouldn’t be that surprised. Patriots owner Bob Kraft has deep soccer connections. How could we have a World Cup without a whiff of backroom chicanery?
The rest of the cities are good to go. It would have been nice to see Cincinnati or Nashville get a bid. Especially when an extra U.S. host spot became available after Canada’s Edmonton bid folded. But that is the only quibble. The list looks strong otherwise. Good for Kansas City on winning a bid.
That FS1 reveal show was brutal. CBS gets the March Madness brackets out with more urgency. And the NFL announces first-round draft picks with more speed. It’s well-documented all FIFA events must have random musical performances, but let’s pick up the pace otherwise.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]