Skip to Content
Soccer

Let Us Discuss What The World Cup Final Means For “New York New Jersey”

11:17 AM EST on February 5, 2024

Metlife Stadium across the Hackensack River in Secaucus, New Jersey, on June 15, 2023. Activist Bill Sheehan has turned mountains to clean up the river, polluted by industry, ten kilometers (6.2 miles) from Manhattan, even if much remains to be done. "It didn't take me long to realize that the river needed a full-time advocate," he says of the hemmed in by an ultra-dense urban grid. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR / AFP) (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)
Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

FIFA has announced that the 2026 Men’s World Cup final will be held in “New York New Jersey,” at “New York New Jersey Stadium” in the Meadowlands. Some locals are excited about this; others are horrified; still others are insulted. Defector has convened the majority (Giri is off today) of the Venerable and Inviolate Council Of New York New Jersey to discuss the controversy.

Barry Petchesky: Welcome. I can’t wait to try to explain to a Polish person what “Secaucus Junction” is. Should we start by giving our regional bona fides?

David Roth: Well, I grew up in the region of New Jersey New York, so it’s a pretty big moment for me, as a son of that soil, to know that we’re getting the World Cup Final. My specific town of origin is Ridgewood, New Jersey, which is in the Taylor Ham part of the region. And I’ve lived in New York since the winter of 2001.

Kathryn Xu: I moved to New Jersey New York from Texas when I was in fourth grade, lived there all the way until college, and never thought of myself as having New Jersey pride until I went to college in Philadelphia, and I found myself in the position of rigorously defending the state to strangers. My middle school band teacher was a member of the Four Seasons.

BP: OK, first of all, it’s New York New Jersey™. Please use only approved FIFA terminology.

DR: I am pretty sure they’re going to change that. After further study.

YKX: New Jersey should come first, as the more notable state.

BP: I was born and raised in New York City, and have lived outside of it only during college, from where I could still basically see New Jersey. As Jerseyans, are you offended that FIFA is pretending this has anything to do with New York? Do you understand why Garden Staters are upset?

DR: No one ever really understands why New Jersey people are upset. This is our charm, as I understand it. Just constantly seething and moping around and periodically yelling “it’s about respect” while waiting in a deli line.

YKX: It’s about Re2pect.

DR: More to the point, I do understand it. It’s corny but not at all new to see this very-much-in-New Jersey stadium get rounded up into New York. I remember when the Super Bowl was in New Jersey and they had the Fan Carnival running from Times Square down to Herald Square, and then the game out in Jersey. And it’s fine, it’s perfectly fine to me that the Buick Brand Experience Tent was in New York and not in New Jersey. That’s fine by me and I’m not upset about it. But to call that a New York Super Bowl … I guess to me it’s about respect.

YKX: This happens very often with international artists who go on world tours, and then have their New York stop at Prudential Center. Personally, I get a kick out of it. Like: Surprise! You’re actually in New Jersey! A bit of a New Jersey jump scare, if you will. So for me it’s a bit more about the glee, and watching travelers have to be in New Jersey even if they don’t really want to.

DR: Barry, as a New York person do you resent having to share the spotlight with New Jersey? Are you afraid of the world falling in love with the unparalleled motoring experience of Paterson Plank Road? Culinary tourists coming from all over the world to visit Steve’s Sizzling Steaks and such?

BP: I mean, you won’t get any argument from me that the Meadowlands are in New Jersey. They might as well be on Mars, for the effort it takes to get there. But obviously FIFA does not choose venues by convenience or even really prestige: FIFA chooses venues based on where its executives would most like to have their vacations paid for. So in that sense, this is a New York event.

DR: I feel like if the American Dream Mall is “for” anyone, it is for FIFA executives. But I take your point.

YKX: [In the voice of someone who was once in London] When I was in London, I took a little weekend trip up to Sheffield (real town; English home of Zhou Guanyu; noted tourist hot spot) in order to watch Women’s Euro, and I remember they had all of these little signs all over the place basically advertising UEFA and local soccer programs and everything. I’d like to see that all over a New Jersey ’burb.

BP: For all the drama, this still makes much more logistical sense than holding the Final in Arlington, Texas, right? We have multiple international airports, and even if it sucks mondo ass, there is public transit to East Rutherford. Technically.

DR: I will share with you one old-guy memory on that front. When I first moved to New York City, my New Jersey friends and I would go to Nets games at the Meadowlands pretty frequently. This, for us, was the promise of our youth paying off more or less at once—we could go to Nets games whenever we wanted, we lived in New York City and not with our parents, and the team was suddenly kind of good, and then weirdly very good. And it was so easy: you’d just go to Port Authority Bus Terminal, meet each other at a bar called Meet Me At McAnn’s and deal with whatever was going on there—sometimes it was some shockingly grim karaoke, sometimes it was just normal bus station bar stuff—and then get on a New Jersey Transit bus that took you right to the game. It took like 15 minutes, and the trip back was often faster. They’d even let you bring beers on the bus, or maybe they just didn’t check very hard to see if you were bringing beers on the bus. This is the experience that I want for visitors from all around the world as they try to attend the World Cup Final at Nu Giants Stadium. But I know they won’t be able to have it, because that bus doesn’t exist anymore and I would argue also because of wokeism.

YKX: Because I am blessed not to be a New York New Jersey sports fan, the only times I’ve ever gotten to MetLife was via school bus for marching band competitions. Now I can say that I have not only marched the same field as the Giants (I refuse to believe the Jets are a real team) but also the eventual World Cup Champions. That’s history right there. I do think it’s neat that the stadium serves such a dual purpose. Hosting little high school events, Zach Wilson (not a real person), the World Cup Finals, etc.

BP: I’ve only ever made the pilgrimage to Giants Stadium twice in my life, once for a Giants game and once for a Metallica show. I took the weird train connection one time, and a bus out of Port Authority the other time. Both were nightmares but the bus was slightly less so. Now the NJ Transit buses only take you as far as Secaucus Junction. How do we think the little single-track shuttle train is going to handle 82,000 people all trying to use it at once?

YKX: Hot take, but I have faith in the little guy. Like watching the Dinky run from Princeton Junction to Princeton. The little engine that could.

DR: Yeah I want to believe but the track record is not great and New Jersey Transit has already demonstrated, through a literal Super Bowl and a Wrestlemania and I don’t know how many Beyoncé shows, that they are not going to be shamed into somehow doing a better job just because the whole world is paying attention. You’re going to get whatever service the train is capable of providing at that moment. You will get to visit the Frank Lautenberg Secaucus Junction Station at some point, that is guaranteed. But it is best not to ask for too much more than that. I would argue that you should lean into it. One of the great North Jersey Experiences, for my money, is changing trains in Secaucus at the moment when the shuttle disgorges like 700 infuriated Jets fans after a game. What a rush.

YKX: Well, when I was going back to New Jersey from the Defector birthday party, I wound up on a train filled with people who were all at a $uicideboy$ concert, and I bonded with two girls in the very long line waiting for the one (1) bathroom at the front of the train. When I split off, they told me they loved me. I think everyone should have that experience.

BP: What nation’s visiting fans are most likely to ignore the signs and set out on foot?

DR: Here I would like to speak directly to our Dutch readers: do not attempt to ride a bicycle to the game. It is not safe to do this.

BP: I have high hopes for French tourists getting busted for trying to wade across the Hackensack marshes, and for violating open container laws.

DR: I remember that sign very well and it is a big part of the pre-emptive embarrassment I feel at what people used to the smooth, efficient, non-neurotic mass transit systems of other major world cities will experience when they try to make what is in point of fact a pretty easy, pretty short trip on ours. Literally being unable to walk there is one thing, but every other way also being bad is pretty dire. Maybe they will run buses direct from Port Authority for the event. Maybe the region’s most despondent commuters will sing “Living On A Prayer” again at McAnn’s. But I think it’s likelier that a lot of Belgian people are going to go home thinking, presumably in Flemish, “damn, you live like this?”

YKX: I have this pipe dream that the sheer embarrassment of watching a pack of European tourists march their way to MetLife will improve this nation’s public infrastructure.

BP: OK, let us be serious for one moment. What advice would you give to a visiting fan attending the final? Where should they stay? How should they get there?

DR: Hell, I’d walk it.

YKX: My family’s house can host, like, two other people.

BP: This whole thing’s going to be designed around people coming from New York, so I think fans are better off staying where all the hotels are. That obviously puts them at the mercy of NJ Transit, but one hopes that they’ll run a few extra buses that day. And I do recommend a bus over the train.

DR: The hotels around the Meadowlands are fine on the merits, although I can’t imagine what they’re going to be charging for rooms around then. We had our senior prom at the Marriott at Glenpointe, and while everyone had a nice time I do not think anyone should pay $850 to stay there. “Taking the bus” is honestly never a thing you want to suggest to anyone visiting your region but I would also recommend it over the train, which always seems to be over capacity and will once again be in “you get what you get” mode despite the presence of the biggest event in sports.

YKX: Wow, we had senior prom at an Embassy Suites. Our junior prom, before they abolished it, was at a country club.

BP: We had our prom at the Waldorf Astoria. Score another point for New York New Jersey. Will either of you be interested in attending the World Cup Final? I think I would rather die, personally.

DR: There are no circumstances under which I would attend that event at that location. 

YKX: It’s not a matter of preferring to die for me, but a fear that perhaps I would actually die in the attempt.

DR: One thing that I think will give me some comfort is imagining all the dignitaries being chauffeured there and just absolutely having the worst experience of their lives. Sitting in a Chevy Suburban for the entire running time of The Irishman before triumphantly leaving the parking lot. Just outside the window is the indoor ski slope at the American Dream Mall; they are still two hours from their hotel room. It’s a long way from controlling all the nickel mines in Argentina, isn’t it? But bad design and car culture are a great unifier. It is important to me, and maybe beautiful also, that all these bribe-plumped FIFA executives are going to get to experience what it’s like trying to drive to work in New York City from like, Hasbrouck Heights.

YKX: Oh god, a Chevy Suburban. I eagerly await everyone witnessing the stupid big cars that rich Americans drive around their little suburbs that do not require their residents to haul lumber. Everyone should get to experience New Jersey driving, namely nearly getting run over by a Ford F-Series that didn’t use its indicator before whipping into a left turn in order to get to the local ACME as quickly as possible. Also! Having to wait at a gas station for the attendant to fill up their gas for them.

BP: I’m mostly just looking forward to Mike Francesa saying “Feefer.” OK, before we wrap up this chat, what is everyone’s favorite New York New Jersey fun fact?

DR: A lot of people don’t know this but the former big league reliever Ron Villone is from Bergenfield.

YKX: Gerard Way hails from Summit.

BP: I admire FIFA’s optimism in expanding New York New Jersey to include Atlantic City. There are going to be some disappointed Ghanaians if they go looking for the Boardwalk.

YKX: I once tried to rope an Australian friend to do a little winter trip to Atlantic City, and they were so horrified by the idea that we just went hiking in Maryland instead.

BP: Atlantic City rules. Better NJ Transit coverage, too. They should hold the World Cup there instead.

DR: That’s the bus trip that foreign swells should take if they really want to understand how we do things around here. Step onto the bus in the lowest sub-basement of Port Authority, step off a few hours later in another world, and with a $20 free-roll that came with the price of your ticket, near the venue formerly known as Club Piscopo.

YKX: The Pennsylvania New Jersey World Cup Final.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter