World Cup 2026: SoFi Stadium to install retractable corner seats, increasing field size for soccer

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Tuesday, February 6, 2024
World Cup 2026: SoFi Stadium to hold 8 games, including USMNT opener
The U.S. men's soccer team will open play in the 2026 World Cup at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on June 12, 2026, FIFA officials announced.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- SoFi Stadium began work Monday on renovations to increase the size of its playing field area in preparation for hosting eight matches during the 2026 World Cup.

Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff says the construction involves replacing concrete in the corners of the lower bowl with bleacher risers that can be rolled back during soccer matches.

The changes should end years of reported concerns from various soccer entities about the width of the soccer fields that will fit inside the stadium, which was primarily designed to host two NFL teams on American football's narrower field.

"It's really just changing pre-cast concrete in the corners of the stadium to a more retractable system," Demoff said Sunday. "We'll have the exact same seating capacity, exact same format and layout. The only difference will be a few of the rows in the corners will be on retractable seating versus permanent seating."

SoFi Stadium was not awarded the World Cup final in the schedule announced Sunday by FIFA despite a late push by the stadium and the Los Angeles host committee. But the Inglewood stadium will have a prominent role in the tournament, notably hosting the U.S. men's national team's opener and two of its three group play matches.

The stadium will host five preliminary-round games in all, followed by two round-of-32 knockout matches before a quarterfinal on July 10, 2026.

"It was always a goal of ours to have the opening match for the United States, and so to be able to have that is something we're proud of," said Chris Klein, the local host committee's co-chairman and former U.S. national team player. "The historic soccer culture in Los Angeles, and all the historic matches that have been here, to continue that with our team at such a pivotal moment for the sport in this country is something we're really proud of."

The U.S. men's soccer team will open play in the 2026 World Cup at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, FIFA officials announced.

The construction at the multibillion-dollar stadium project is scheduled to be completed by May, in time for Copa America matches in June and a possible Arsenal exhibition match later in the summer. The renovations, which will stay in place after the World Cup for future years of soccer competition, will be paid for by stadium owner Stan Kroenke, who also owns the Rams, Arsenal and the NBA champion Denver Nuggets.

SoFi also will have a temporary grass field for the World Cup in place of its usual artificial turf. The stadium has already hosted soccer competitions on its regular turf, including last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup final won by Mexico.

FIFA didn't disclose the reasoning for its decision on the final, but the narrowness of the pitch had been cited frequently as a strike against SoFi. Demoff said those concerns were overblown, and he decried the wave of negative publicity in recent years about the stadium's size and Kroenke's supposed unwillingness to make the renovations.

"There was a lot written over the past few years about our venue and what it could or couldn't do, and none of it was accurate," Demoff said. "The venue was always designed to host a World Cup. The changes that we will make to the stadium were always contemplated for the World Cup. It's a pretty easy fix."

Demoff acknowledged SoFi was always designed "to be the best NFL venue possible." The stadium hosts at least 20 NFL games per year as the home of the Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers, and it already hosted the Rams' victory in Super Bowl 56 in February 2022. Another Super Bowl will be played there in February 2027, and the venue will play a prominent role in the 2028 Olympics.

Although the Los Angeles-area World Cup organizers didn't get the final, only AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will host more total matches than SoFi.

"While three months ago, everybody was writing articles that SoFi was out, (we) never gave up," said Larry Freedman, the co-chair of the LA host committee. "What we've ended up with is the opportunity to feature the U.S. men's national team. All eyes will be on that opening game, and then we have that third (U.S.) game, which may very well have all the chips on the line."