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The last time disappointment was this tangible at AT&T Stadium was three weeks ago, when the Dallas Cowboys blew it in the playoffs against the Green Bay Packers.
FIFA’s announcement on Sunday that its 2026 World Cup Finals will not be played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington was the rare instance of the “big win” that still felt like a devastating defeat.
AT&T Stadium was picked to host nine matches, the most of any site, including a semifinal, but Sunday’s announcement was still the playoff win for DFW that played out like just another Cowboys’ wildcard loss.
“There is some disappointment here; I gotta speak my mind,” former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith said in a press-only event at AT&T Stadium, shortly after the announcement was made.
“I can’t believe we lost to New Jersey.”
For more than a year, all of the reports from overseas insisted that the biggest soccer match in the world was coming here. In the months, days and weeks leading up to Sunday’s announcement, none of the local leadership for this bid was sure if these reports were accurate.
They were hopeful, but not entirely sure. They wanted to believe it, and by their reaction on Sunday it was apparent nearly all of them bought the reports.
“I knew it was up in the air; FIFA has been good about keeping things close to the chest,” Arlington mayor Jim Ross said. “We knew that it was just a rumor. We had no proof of any of that. We all wanted that final game. Instead, we got nine of them. I’m happy with that.”
The announcement of the entire schedule was made in a Miami production studio for an awkward made-for-TV event co-hosted by comedian Kevin Hart, rather than Katt Williams. One of America’s co-hosts for this TV event was “soccer star” Kim Kardashian.
Anyone who has ever attended a sporting event at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey knows Emmitt Smith is correct.
“It was a helluva battle,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who lobbied FIFA so hard to get the final match here. “We almost got there. We’re disappointed. We are. No question about that.”
This wasn’t about New Jersey, or even the venue. This is about New York City beating out all of DFW, and every other city scheduled to host matches in the 2026 World Cup that will be played between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
New York is New York. Even the most loyal and ardent supporter of DFW would say, “OK, I get it.”
Jerry said that DFW’s bid could not overcome the reality of a New York City. The perception of New York is hard to beat.
AT&T Stadium may be 84 times the venue of a MetLife Stadium, and not many tourist destinations can compete with New York.
“I know there were some disappointed faces down there, but I’m thrilled,” former Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said at the event. “I’m excited for this region. The World Cup semifinal will be an incredible atmosphere. I’m not too disappointed. I’m thrilled.”
That is the correct attitude.
Event planners had not planned for any scenario where AT&T Stadium was picked to host nine matches. They had thought four or five.
To host nine matches will be a financial earthquake. That’s nine matches where more than 90,000 fans from all over the world will attend.
“This is like nine Super Bowls,” FC Dallas co-owner Dan Hunt said.
Ross dismissed any idea that one of the reasons Arlington was not awarded the final had anything to do with public transportation.
In the end, this is about New York City. New York versus the rest of North America.
That Arlington’s AT&T Stadium was even in the discussion to host the 2026 World Cup Finals speaks highly to the bid that was presented, and Jerry’s ability to persuade anyone.
“This is the most significant sports event that has taken place in our region,” Jerry said. “We will take it to a level that they didn’t anticipate. I know what this area can do.”
It can do a lot.
It just can’t be New York City.