What was the first ticketed event at Lincoln Financial Field?
Believe it or not, it wasn't an Eagles game.
Lincoln Financial Field opened its doors to the public for the first time on August 3, 2003, for fans to witness an international soccer battle between Manchester United and FC Barcelona.
It's only fitting that soccer's premier tournament – and one of the grandest events in all of sports – will take place at Lincoln Financial Field when the World Cup returns to North America in 2026. On Thursday, FIFA named Philadelphia as one of 16 host cities across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. It's the first time that World Cup matches will be played on American soil since 1994.
"We are thrilled the City of Philadelphia has been selected as a host city for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Twenty years ago, when Lincoln Financial Field first opened, we envisioned a world-class venue in a world-class city hosting world-class events. Along the way, we have welcomed some of the world's most prestigious soccer clubs to our stadium. Now, we are proud to host the game's highest level of competition in front of a global audience. The City of Philadelphia and Lincoln Financial Field are well-prepared to provide the international soccer community with an unforgettable experience in 2026," Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said.
"On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles, we would like to thank the FIFA delegation for providing us this distinguished honor and recognizing our city and Lincoln Financial Field as premier destinations for soccer. We are incredibly proud of the work put in by so many to make this a reality. Philadelphia Soccer 2026 – chaired by Dan Hilferty and supported by its esteemed panel of honorary co-chairs – deserves tremendous credit. Also, a special note of gratitude to David L. Cohen who led this bid prior to becoming U.S. Ambassador to Canada. We also want to acknowledge and thank the passionate soccer fans throughout the tri-state region. Their enthusiasm and genuine love for the game were on full display during the bid process and played an integral role in attracting the largest World Cup in history to Philadelphia. This was truly a collaborative effort across the Greater Philadelphia community.
"As the birthplace of our country's independence, the City of Philadelphia is deeply rooted in culture, tradition, and history. As we approach America's 250th anniversary in the summer of 2026, we look forward to celebrating the special occasion, and the great sport of soccer, at Lincoln Financial Field in front of the world," added Lurie.
For Chief Financial Officer Frank Gumienny, the World Cup is the latest example of the Eagles delivering on a promise to the City of Philadelphia that Lincoln Financial Field would attract marquee events. Since its opening, Lincoln Financial Field has hosted three NFC Championship Games, nearly 40 concerts, the Army-Navy classic, and several other high-profile international soccer matches, including the Women's World Cup, the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, and Copa America.
The collaboration with the City of Philadelphia ramped up in 2019. In March 2020, Gumienny was part of the committee that was scheduled to go to Dallas to present on the city's behalf for FIFA. Of course, as with everything else, the meetings were held virtually due to the pandemic.
Finally, last September, the city rolled out the red carpet to welcome the FIFA delegation for an in-person tour of Lincoln Financial Field. Eagles front office staff and local dignitaries provided a gameday-like entrance to offer a small taste of the electric atmosphere that awaits soccer fans in 2016.
Gumienny and Senior Vice President of Operations Jason Miller toured the stadium with Victor Montagliani, President of CONCACAF, and Colin Smith, FIFA Chief Tournaments & Events Officer. At this time, Gumienny believed that the World Cup coming to Philadelphia was a real possibility after the open and honest dialogue with Montagliani and Smith.
"We're proud of the stadium. We're proud of the city, and we wanted to show that to FIFA firsthand. We wanted to express what it would mean to host the World Cup in Philadelphia," he said.
It was truly a team effort to bring the World Cup to Lincoln Financial Field. Gumienny cited how Chris "Sharky" Sharkoski is one of the best event managers in the country. Vice President of Information Technology John Pawling highlighted the stadium's Wi-Fi capacity. Director of Facilities Security JP Hayslip displayed the extensive security measures designed to keep fans safe. Vice President of Ticket & Fan Services Laini DeLawter and Director of Fan Experience and Sustainability Norman Vossschulte demonstrated the organization's commitment to customer service and initiatives such as the Go Green program. And Vice President of Grounds Tony Leonard had the grass in peak condition. In fact, Manchester United's former manager Sir Alex Ferguson praised Leonard's work following the opening match in 2003. Gumienny also applauded Meg Kane from the city's bid committee for her outstanding work coordinating the efforts between the Eagles, the city, and FIFA.
"Teamwork makes it happen, right? Everyone has to work together to make this experience amazing. This event warrants that. This is one of the biggest events that can happen in the world, and that attention to detail from the whole team is so important," Gumienny said.
The World Cup is not for another four years, but planning meetings kick off early next week. Exact dates and times for the matches will be announced in the future. A lot of hard work remains, but Gumienny can't wait to see what was once a bid, now become a reality.
"I'm going to walk out when the first ball is kicked, the crowd roars, and the first match is underway, knowing that we spent all of this time and energy to bring this together and have a moment of pride for being an Eagle and having this happen in our building in the City of Philadelphia," he said.