Blunder at Stan Kroenke’s $5.5 billion stadium may cost LA World Cup final
Mar 22, 2023, 12:35 PM | Updated: 12:35 pm
SoFi Stadium’s operators have lauded the building for putting patrons closer to the action than any other NFL arena. But the way the stadium was built may now prevent it from hosting the world’s biggest soccer game come 2026.
The home of the Los Angeles Rams is among the candidates to host the 2026 World Cup final but that is in jeopardy according to a report from The Times, which says the field would be too narrow to meet FIFA regulations. Increasing the pitch by as much as 63 feet is doable and is likely to get done for the earlier stages of the tournament. But when the stadium gets its field size increased, its crowd capacity decreases.
For the FIFA-approved field to fit in the building it would take the crowd capacity under 70,000, which is much lower than the 80,000-person capacity minimum FIFA requests for World Cup final matches.
SoFi can sit just over 70,000 people for Rams games, so the fact FIFA had even considered the stadium despite their rules is interesting. And it’s not like these rules are unknown.
A simple Wikipedia search can give you the UEFA classifications for stadiums across Europe with category four and needing to meet that standard of things like field size, lighting and parking in order to host any game in the main competition of the UEFA Europa League, UEFA Europa Conference League, UEFA Nations League or the UEFA European Championship final tournament.
There’s another class known as a five-star stadium which bumps up seating capacity requirements from 8,000 to no less than 50,000 but with 70,000 or more preferred.
Technically SoFi does meet most of these European rules, which are ordered by a subset of FIFA.
The funny thing is the extremely wealthy owner of SoFi Stadium and the Rams, Stan Kroenke, had the advantage of knowing the World Cup was coming to the USA two years before the building was finished. Kroenke is a soccer man and owns the Premier League’s Arsenal and MLS’ Colorado Rapids.
Instead of FIFA going to L.A. for a World Cup Final, just two years before the same stadium—which can expand up to 100,000 spectators of capacity—is set to host the Olympics, it’ll likely go to New York or Dallas.
Attendance at this past winter’s World Cup final thriller was reported to be 88,966. MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey has 82,500 seats and AT&T Stadium in Dallas, built 10 years before SoFi, is still thought to be the country’s most modern stadium and sits over 80,000.
The three options for FIFA have all hosted soccer games, with major friendlies and tournament finals being hosted either at the home of the New York Giants and Jets or the Dallas Cowboys. While SoFi is slated to host this year’s Gold Cup final match and has already been the home to some friendlies.
L.A., Dallas and New York are among the American cities that will host the 2026 World Cup which will take place across the country as well as Canada and Mexico. Denver was a finalist for games but lost out to Washington D.C. and New England.
A few thousand seats and inconsiderate configuration may be what costs America’s biggest soccer city and the NFL’s second-richest owner from hosting what could be the biggest soccer game of the decade.