Arlington’s AT&T Stadium, Dallas has rich soccer history

AT&T Stadium in Arlington could be one of 10 venues in the US to host matches in the 2026 World Cup.

AT&T Stadium in Arlington could be one of 10 venues in the US to host matches in the 2026 World Cup.

amccoy@star-telegram.com

AT&T Stadium in Arlington is a finalist to host FIFA World Cup matches, and while it is known as a football and concert venue, soccer has been in the building since the beginning.

FIFA, the Federation International Football Association, will announce June 16 its selection of US cities to host matches for the 2026 World Cup. The FIFA World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world, with billions of people tuning in from all over the globe to watch..

The 2026 edition of the quadrennial soccer tournament will be jointly hosted by the US, Mexico and Canada. Each country will host matches, with 17 US cities — including Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle — all vying for the honor.

If AT&T Stadium is picked to host World Cup matches, it wouldn’t be the first time the Dallas Cowboys’ home field has welcomed soccer.

The Metroplex sports mecca

Ground broke on AT&T Stadium in 2005 and doors opened to the public on May 27, 2009.

The venue is owned by the city of Arlington and has been host to football games, concerts, the NCAA Final Four, WrestleMania and even a Super Bowl in 2011. The first event ever held at the stadium was a June 2009 concert headlined by George Strait , with Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton in tow.

But the first sporting event held at the stadium was not professional, college or even high school football. Instead, it was a soccer match between Costa Rica and Guadeloupe, a French-administered island group in the Caribbean.

The two teams were playing in a Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football, Gold Cup quarterfinals match in July 2009. Costa Rica came out on top, crushing The Gwada Boys, 5-1.

Later that month, another Gold Cup match saw Mexico trounce Haiti, 4-0, to a sold-out crowd of over 82,000 people.

The Dallas Cowboys would finally play in the stadium later that summer in August during the NFL preseason and then for the 2009-2010 regular season.

Over the years, AT&T Stadium would again host CONCACAF soccer matches in 2011, 2013, 2017 and 2021. Another exhibition, The World Football Challenge, brought international teams to the stadium in 2009 and 2011.

In between the global tournaments, AT&T Stadium also played host to several non-competitive matches or “friendlies” that featured El Tri, Mexico’s national men’s team.

Playing surface woes

AT&T Stadium has a turf field, Hellas Matrix turf, to be exact. But if it’s chosen to host FIFA World Cup matches, a change is in order.

FIFA World Cup matches are only played on natural-grass fields, to measure that has been in place ever since the first soccer exhibition in 1930. Along with the Arlington stadium, half of the venues on the list use some variation of turf.

The stadium has hosted a few soccer matches on natural grass in the past, along with some on soft turf and a mixture of both, according to a Dallas Cowboys spokesperson. A mixture of both grass and turf was used most recently in the Mexico vs. Nigeria match held at the stadium in May.

FIFA will, however, have control of the field of play and it will be at their discretion as to what modifications the stadium undergoes to hold matches. More details on that will be forthcoming when and if AT&T Stadium is selected as a World Cup venue.

FIFA history in Texas

The last time the US hosted a FIFA World Cup was in 1994.

Nine US cities hosted matches for the 24-team tournament, including North Texas. The Cotton Bowl in Dallas played to host six matches during the tournament.

Four of the matches showcased teams fighting to get to the round of 16:

  • June 17: Spain tied Korea Republic, 2-2.
  • June 21- Nigeria defeated Bulgaria, 3-0.
  • June 27- Germany defeated Korea Republic, 3-2.
  • June 30- Bulgaria defeated Argentina, 2-0.

The final two matches played at the Cotton Bowl were:

  • July 3- Sweden defeated Saudi Arabia, 3-1, in the round of 16.
  • July 9- Brazil defeated the Netherlands, 3-2, in the quarterfinals.

The remainder of the World Cup took place at Giants Stadium in New Jersey and the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. Brazil defeated Italy in penalty kicks to win the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

This story was originally published June 15, 2022 4:24 PM.

Brayden Garcia is a service journalism reporter at the Star-Telegram. He graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2020, where he worked at the student newspaper, The Shorthorn. He previously worked at The Dallas Morning News covering education.

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