FIFA 2026 show SoFi Stadium deal irk Kroenkes


First clash for FIFA with a US venue Image: Coliseum GSVA

FIFA is at the center of escalating tensions with the Kroenke family, the owners of Los Angeles’ (US) SoFi Stadium, over the terms of the agreement to be a host venue at the 2026 Men’s World Cup.

‘The Athletic’ stated that the 2026 World Cup is to be staged across 16 Cities in the United States, Mexico and Canada and the venues were announced last year.

Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle are the other US Cities, with Mexico represented by Guadalajara, Mexico City and Monterrey and Canada by Toronto and Vancouver.

The Fédération internationale de football association (FIFA) is the international governing body of association football, beach soccer and futsal. It was founded in 1904 to oversee international competition among the national associations of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland, its membership now comprises 211 national associations.

The SoFi Stadium is an unprecedented and unparalleled sports and entertainment destination built in Inglewood, California (US) by the National Football League (NFL) team Los Angeles Rams Owner/Chairman E. Stanley Kroenke.

The SoFi Stadium is a 70,240-seat sports and entertainment indoor stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood, California, United States. SoFi occupies the former site of the Hollywood Park Racetrack, three miles from the Los Angeles International Airport and 0.5 miles Southeast of the 17,505-capacity The Kia Forum in Inglewood, California.

The 2026 FIFA World Cup™, marketed as the FIFA World Cup 26, will be the 23rd FIFA World Cup™, the quadrennial international men’s soccer championship contested by the national teams of the member-associations of FIFA. The tournament will take place from June 11th-July 19th, 2026.

‘The Athletic’ further stated that however, tensions are growing between FIFA and the Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE), which owns not only the SoFi Stadium but also the English Premier League club Arsenal F.C. (UK), as well as the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL, the Denver Nuggets in the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer (MLS), and the Colorado Avalanche in the National Hockey League (NHL).

The Kroenke Sports & Entertainment is an American sports and entertainment holding company based in Denver, Colorado (US). Originally known as the Kroenke Sports Enterprises, it was started in 1999 by businessman Stan Kroenke to be the parent company of his sports holdings.

Multiple sources familiar with the discussions, who requested anonymity, have said that the KSE is unhappy with the terms of the deal to host fixtures during the tournament, in respect of how revenue will be shared between FIFA, the Cities and the stadiums.

The stadium owners had hoped that upfront payments would be recouped via commercial assets, which may refer to sponsorship, ticketing, hospitality, and matchday revenue, but those assets are yet to materialize in the way the KSE had hoped.

The precise figures involved for each stadium and City are not clear but the FIFA projected in December that the cycle for the four years leading up to the World Cup in 2026 would drive $11billion (£8.8bn) worth of revenue, with $3.1bn forecast to be driven via ticket sales and hospitality. As such, the Cities and stadiums are seeking a significant slice of the pie.

Sources further revealed that the KSE currently feels so strongly about the matter that the group has threatened to walk away from hosting World Cup matches altogether, unless the deal is renegotiated by FIFA. It is unclear whether this step is a negotiating power play or a genuine threat to pull out. A spokesperson for KSE did not respond to queries.

The SoFi Stadium is the most expensive stadium to ever be built in the United States, costing more than $5bn to construct, and it is a 70,240-seater complex. It opened in 2020 and is due to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028, while it hosted the Super Bowl in 2022.

The Super Bowl is the annual league championship game of the National Football League (NFL). It has served as the final game of every NFL season since 1966, replacing the NFL Championship Game. Since 2022, the game is played on the second Sunday in February.

New York (US)-based the National Football League (NFL) is a professional American football league that consists of 32 teams, divided equally between the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference.

The importance of Los Angeles to the 2026 World Cup was underlined earlier this year when FIFA held its launch event for the branding of the event in Los Angeles in May. Los Angeles was also a founding City of the MLS and it previously hosted the Men’s World Cup final in 1994 and the Women’s World Cup final in 1999.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States. The league comprises 29 teams – 26 in the United States and 3 in Canada – since the 2023 season. The league is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan (US).

When asked about the issues, the Los Angeles FIFA World Cup™ Host Committee issued a statement which read, “We are proud to be the Los Angeles Host Committee for the FIFA World Cup 2026™. Since being announced as a Host City, we have been working closely with FIFA on many aspects of the event. The information you have shared does not accurately reflect the content of those ongoing, collaborative conversations. The Kroenke Sports & Entertainment is an invaluable partner for Los Angeles. Besides having the premiere venue in the world, the KSE continues to provide incredible support to our Committee. With the KSE as a partner, Los Angeles will deliver to the highest standard on the world stage.”

When then asked to specify the inaccuracies of the conversations, a Committee spokesperson said they did not wish to comment further.

Sources further revealed that FIFA officials have been surprised by the tenacity of the US Cities and stadium owners during discussions, and they are experiencing a very different dynamic to the relationship they experienced for the 2022 tournament in Qatar.

In Qatar, the perception among many observers was that the Gulf State craved the prestige and privilege of hosting a tournament, with the State bearing the costs of a project estimated to have cost over $200bn. Now, however, FIFA is negotiating with the local Cities and businessmen who are seeking to run sustainable operations and fighting a harder bargain.

Earlier, in June, it was reported that Colin Smith, previously FIFA’s World Cup Chief Operating Officer (COO), would be leaving his position. Smith was responsible for planning on the 2026 tournament but following the underwhelming brand launch in Los Angeles, which was seen by many as plain and uninspiring, there was discontent both internally at FIFA and among the Host Cities. FIFA insisted at the time that Smith’s departure was “amicable”.

The World Cup division at FIFA is now being led by Heimo Schirgi, Smith’s deputy. He has joined the FIFA President Gianni Infantino in the United States where FIFA have sought to build relations with Cities that have grown frustrated with a perceived lack of communication and concrete planning around the event. The opening date of the tournament is still to be set, while Cities are yet to learn how many games they will host and the specific dates they need to reserve.

Heimo Schirgi, Director, World Cups, FIFA, Switzerland, is a Member of Coliseum – Global Sports Venue Alliance.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino was recently in the United States attempting to build relations ahead of the 2026 tournament, while FIFA is also planning in the coming months to announce which City will host the 2026 World Cup Final.

The SoFi Stadium had previously been among the contenders but the two leading candidates are now the 80,000-capacity AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, as well as the 82,500-capacity MetLife Stadium in New Jersey/New York.

FIFA said, “We have a strong working relationship with LA and all our 16 Host Committees, and have been working hand-in-hand on the details of delivering an unforgettable and unprecedented FIFA World Cup™ in Canada, Mexico and the United States in 2026. If you think about the size and scale of the largest single-sporting event in the world, the work involved in successfully delivering such an event for all fans and stakeholders is a massive undertaking. We continue to enjoy an open and productive dialog on all elements of our collaboration.”

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