Opinion: When it comes to values, there’s a clear choice for the World Cup Final

By Annette Taddeo, former member of the Florida State Senate

During the summer of 2026, North America will play host to the FIFA World Cup. This tournament, involving a record 48 teams playing matches at 16 venues spanning the continent, is set to be the biggest sporting event in world history.

One important detail has yet to be decided, though: the location of the Final.

The New York Times reported Friday that FIFA’s brass has narrowed the possibilities to two Final finalists: Dallas-Fort Worth’s AT&T Stadium and New York-New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. On Sunday night, FIFA’s president attended the Dallas Cowboys’ home game. An official decision is expected this fall.

To politically-minded individuals like myself, these two regions evoke polar opposite mental images. Texas, the spiritual home of conservatism, is becoming more draconian, while New York, whose name is synonymous with liberalism and multiculturalism, represents just the opposite.

FIFA, an organisation that prides itself on internationalism, diversity, and acceptance, should keep those values front of mind as they pick the host for their signature event.

One doesn’t have to live in New York to know that it represents the best America has to offer. It’s home to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The region’s population hails from more than 130 countries and speaks over 200 languages. It’s no surprise that it’s where the United Nations is headquartered.

My grandparents on my father’s side of the family came through Ellis Island and our last name is inscribed in its records. My family eventually settled in New Jersey to pursue the American Dream, which the New York/New Jersey area has always represented so well.

Meanwhile, Texas can’t seem to stop making headlines for all the wrong reasons. It boasts perhaps the most extreme abortion restrictions in the nation. Governor Greg Abbott’s bizarre and xenophobic floating border wall flagrantly violates federal law. Texas’s sweltering summer further highlighted state leadership’s indifference to the climate crisis. And the state responded to the failed gun safety policies that produced the Uvalde massacre with continued inaction; open-carry remains the law of the land. Just from a safety perspective, does FIFA want to take its final game to the state that leads the country in gun deaths? New York and New Jersey, by contrast, are among the safest states in the country as it relates to firearm deaths.

FIFA has faced some tough publicity of its own over the last few years. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar was fraught with human rights concerns, and the organization has long been beset by corruption, as evidenced by high-profile Justice Department indictments of FIFA officials in 2015.

FIFA talks a big game when it comes to their values, and FIFA leadership is in desperate need of a reputational win. In choosing the location for the Final, they have a critical chance to match their words with action.

With three major airports and hundreds of thousands of hotel rooms, the New York area is well-equipped to host the Final logistically and technically. But perhaps more importantly, I also have no doubt that the people of New York and New Jersey will welcome fans from every corner of the world with open arms. Dallas, meanwhile, presents real concerns with respect to the welfare of its residents and those who may visit for matches; SafeHome’s 2023 LGBTQ+ State Safety Rankings ranked New York and New Jersey 4th and 5th, respectively; Texas placed 40th.

To put it differently, New York makes sense when it comes to simple logistics and love of the game – when values are added to the mix, the decision becomes a no-brainer.

The World Cup should represent the best of what humanity has to offer – equality, multiculturalism and the pursuit of excellence. Progress towards these ideals requires constant, deliberate thought and effort. It requires matching word with deed.

If soccer’s highest body wants to face three more years of questions about why their words fail to match their actions, they should feel free to host their most high-profile match in Dallas. But if FIFA would prefer to avoid another unforced public-relations error, the Meadowlands is the only option.

The choice is FIFA’s. I, along with billions of global fútbol fans representing every race, religion and nationality, eagerly await their answer.

Annette Taddeo, who fell in love with fútbol growing up in Colombia, is the first Latina Democrat elected to the Florida Senate.