The New England Patriots have long been a banner team for the National Football League. Led by the work of Robert Kraft, the Patriots have turned their brand into one coinciding with winning, a tradition that has created as many fans as detractors. Yet for all of their success on the field, the owner of the New England Patriots is looking ahead to even bigger things, namely hosting the 2026 World Cup at Gillette Stadium.
Robert Kraft assumed control of the New England Patriots in 1994 and quickly installed a grass surface at Foxboro Stadium. His goal then was to attract games for the 1994 World Cup, a task that Kraft and the Patriots did not quite succeed with. Yet years later, Kraft and the Patriots have begun making moves to make the World Cup a possibility in Gillette Stadium in 2026.
Bringing the World Cup to Massachusetts
Robert Kraft has already brought forth a plan to bring the World Cup to Gillette Stadium in 2026. The plan has been presented to officials for FIFA who joined Kraft in-person for an event alongside Brian Bilello, president of Revolution. In an effort to win over FIFA, officials for Gillette said that they would tear out any existing manufactured surface while aiming to revive its irrigation system, returning real turf to the arena. Additionally, seating would be removed from the arena to help satisfy the needs for a fully functional field.
With a proper plan put in place, Kraft hopes to bring six matches to the stadium across four group-stage games, finishing with a pair of elimination contests. In 1994, Kraft saw more than 324,000 fans flock to Foxboro Stadium to watch the 1994 World Cup with match highlights including Diego Maradona’s final appearance on the international stage.
Even though expenses are mountainous for upgrading Gillette to handle the World Cup, expectations are that the process would be worth the results. Justification for expensive infrastructure modifications includes expected prestige, increased exposure, and worldwide attention from international audiences looking to tune in for the World Cup.
FIFA Chief Colin Smith stated, “We play the World Cup on normal grass and we have a standard pitch size that we use for global games.” Smith would go on to highlight the importance of providing a prestigious field for the athletes in the World Cup: “Players who are playing in the World Cup are the best in the world.”
While Smith may sound hesitant, Robert Kraft and the Gillette Stadium officials seem anything but. During an in-person event, Kraft stated on stage, “We anticipate facilitating, ideally, six games here and the quarterfinals as we did in1994.”
For their part, FIFA seemed to be bouncing positively off of Kraft’s attention. The president of the CONCACAF stated at the event, “Robert was doing his job before we walked over here.”
At the time of this writing, the World Cup is slated to appear in 4 countries with 17 potential US venues vying for one of the spots. Right now, there are four cities/stadiums in consideration, including Dallas (AT&T), Los Angeles (the Rose Bowl), Washington (FedEx), and New York (MetLife).
Perhaps due to his massive success headlining the New England Patriots, Kraft seems composed and confident that Gillette Stadium can get the job done. Kraft also went on to underscore the importance of community in the sport of football and how it would help bring some extra attention to the event. Still, Kraft knows that soccer leads all on a global scale.
Kraft stated, “I think half of the world’s population watches at least part of the World Cup. It is so powerful it brings communities together.”