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New Jersey gets 2026 World Cup final, Mexico has opener

AP PHOTO

The 2026 FIFA World Cup final will be held in New Jersey at the home of the National Football League's New York Giants and New York Jets.

World governing body FIFA announced the final venue on Sunday, along with the entire schedule for the global soccer showcase.

The 48-team World Cup, which will conclude on July 19 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, is being co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Canada will host 13 games in total, including 10 in the group stage split evenly between Toronto and Vancouver. Mexico will also get 13 games, including 10 during the group stage in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. The rest of tournament will be held in 11 cities across the United States.

While qualifying is underway, the three host nations are guaranteed entry. Toronto, Mexico City, and Los Angeles will host the opening matches of their respective national teams.

The open-air stadium for the final, which opened in 2010 and has a capacity of 82,500, hosted the Copa America Centenario final in 2016 when Chile denied Lionel Messi's Argentina for a second time in a penalty shootout.

FIFA did not announce kickoff times for the games.

Mexico City's Estadio Azteca will host the opening match of tournament on June 11 when Mexico will become the first nation to stage the World Cup for a third time. The opening day will also feature a match in Guadalajara.

Mexico hosted the World Cup in 1970 and 1986, with the finals of both editions held at Estadio Azteca where Pele's Brazil crushed Italy 4-1 and Diego Maradona's Argentina beat West Germany 3-2.

Maradona also scored the famous "Hand of God" goal and the "Goal of the Century" at the same venue in a 2-1 victory over England in the 1986 quarter-finals.

The first match in Canada, which has never hosted a World Cup game, will be June 12 in Toronto at the home of the city's Major League Soccer team while the opening game in the United States will be in Los Angeles at the home of the NFL's Rams.

Each of the tournament hosts will spend the group stage in their own countries, with the United States sticking to the West Coast and playing twice in Los Angeles and once in Seattle.

Canada will play one group stage game in Toronto followed by two in Vancouver while Mexico will play twice at Estadio Azteca and once in Guadalajara.

The tournament will shift entirely to the United States starting with the quarter-final round, which will be held in Los Angeles, Kansas City, Miami and Boston.

Dallas and Atlanta will host the two semi-finals, Miami will be the site of the third-place playoff while Philadelphia will host a Round of 16 match on July 4 to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

The 2026 World Cup will feature 104 matches instead of the traditional 64 games, including an additional knockout round due to the previously announced decision to expand to 48 teams from 32.

Given both the distance and different climates across the 16 host cities, FIFA opted to divide the venues being used into three regions - east, central and west -- with teams operating out of a base camp in the same region as their games.

with The AP