‘The icing on the cake’: Philly officials and organizers react to 2026 FIFA World Cup schedule

Lincoln Financial Field will play host to a Fourth of July round-of-16 game during the semiquincentennial, as well as five group games in June.

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Philadelphia city officials and organizers gathered Monday at the Independence Visitors Center to outline Sunday’s announcement that Philly will host five June group stage games and a round of 16 match on the Fourth of July for the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup.

One word summed up the reaction to finally hearing the schedule for Host City Executive Meg Kane: “relieved.”

“This now gives us the ebb and flow of what the tournament will feel like,” Kane said. “The matchday minus-one, matchday and matchday plus-one; each of these events is like hosting the Super Bowl — the three-day event. So we are going to feel that six times in a three-week period. That’s an extraordinary opportunity.”

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Kane said the upcoming preparations will emphasize “safety, security, transportation and mobility.”

Philly was announced as a World Cup host city back in June 2022 with Lincoln Financial Field elected as the venue. The City’s group stage games will be on June 14, 19, 22, 25 and 27. The tournament itself runs from June 11 to July 19, jointly hosted by 16 cities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Forty-eight international teams will compete in 104 matches, a massive expansion from the previous tournament in Qatar in 2022, which had 32 teams competing over 64 games.

The home of the Philadelphia Eagles most recently showcased top-level soccer matches last year with the opening weekend of the first-ever English Premier League Summer Series and an international friendly match between Mexico and Germany in October.

Frank Gumienny speaking at a podium
Frank Gumienny, COO of the Philadelphia Eagles football team (right), and Meg Kane, Host City Executive for Philadelphia Soccer 2026 (left), offered insights on large sporting events at a press conference at the Independence Visitor’s Center on February 5, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Though the Premier League won’t return this year, Eagles Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Frank Gumienny said discussions are currently happening to bring more soccer to the Linc.

“We’re always looking to bring the biggest events in the world to Lincoln Financial Field,” Gumienny said. “We’re going to continue to do that, and we think we are well underway for ‘24 [and] potentially ‘25.”

The round-of-16 game — the second stage of the tournament’s knockout rounds — will run alongside Philly’s celebrations for the U.S. semiquincentennial, the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

“Each one of these matches will consume about 26,000 room nights,” Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Gregg Caren said. “To put that in perspective, the city proper has 14,400 rooms, in the city and county of Philadelphia. So you think about what that immediate impact is going to have on our collar counties and our partners in South Jersey and out to the western suburbs. The impact is huge.”

Gregg Caren speaking at a podium
Gregg Caren, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau reacted to the news that the FIFA World Cup would hold six matches in Philadelphia at the Independence Visitor’s Center on February 5, 2024. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Newly-appointed City Representative Jazelle Jones emphasized that the city’s planning for 2026’s games has gone back all the way to 2016.

“We didn’t just start playing today or last week. We have religiously been doing this for a few years,” she said “So we are very confident and happy and excited and comfortable with where we’re going.”

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“There’s tons of amazing things leading up to 2026,” Jones said of the city’s overall plans for the semiquincentennial. “This is the icing on the cake. We have not done anything this big and we are excited about all the events, collectively”

The competition opener will be on June 11 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, and the final on July 19 was awarded to East Rutherford, N.J.’s MetLife stadium — which will be called New York/New Jersey for the tournament due to FIFA’s sponsorship rules.

“There is nowhere that batter captures the breadth and diversity of the world’s greatest game than New York City and our great Garden State,” N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy said in a joint statement video with New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “Name a team or a country and I guarantee you this; they will have a built-in fanbase on either side of the Hudson River.”

Kane said that Philly could serve as a potential auxiliary site for those hoping to be near the final, as well as for the overall tournament by serving as a corridor between New Jersey and games at Gillette Stadium near Boston.

“I think that we really see this as an opportunity to keep Philadelphia as an active part of the tournament, even past our own matches because I think the overflow is going to be so significant,” Kane said.

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