With the news that the World Cup will be using Gillette Stadium as a site in 2026, the NCAA will now have to shift its focus to a different site for Championship Weekend. Originally scheduled prior to North America announcing World Cup host sites, this creates a unique problem for the NCAA.
The Division I men’s and women’s lacrosse committees are each exploring site options for their respective championships in 2026. The Division II and III men’s championships will be held at the same site as the Division I men’s final four.
The NCAA originally announced sites for the 2023-26 lacrosse championships in 2020. The men were in Philadelphia and the women in North Carolina in 2023 and will return there in 2024. In 2025 both the Men and Women will shift to Foxborough, the first time since 2017 that the Division I men’s and women’s lacrosse final four events will take place at the same site.
In 2003 the NCAA moved from campus sites to NFL sized venues which coincided with a huge boom in attendance. Since the recession of 2008, attendance figures have been mixed which has many calling for championship weekend to return to campus sites or go to a smaller venue.
The World Cup takes away three potential sites in Boston (Gillette), Philadelphia (Lincoln Financial) and New York (Met-Life). As the committees look to find other alternatives, we will look at five potential sites that would make for a phenomenal weekend of lacrosse.
SECU Stadium – University of Maryland – College Park, MD
Returning to one of the most famous sites for Final Four weekend makes sense on so many levels. There’s a sense of nostalgia that goes with it as so many memorable games have been played at the former Byrd Stadium. From a location standpoint this would make sense as it is in the Mid-Atlantic Region and close to a major airport hub. The stadium has gone through multiple renovations and boasts a stadium capacity of over 50,000.
Navy – Marine Corps Stadium – Naval Academy – Annapolis, MD
Another location that has hosted many quarterfinal and NCAA tournament games. This has been a location that many have pushed for in years past to host but has never happened. A sentimental favorite for sure, but this stadium boasts a capacity that would benefit the weekend and the Annapolis area would be a huge draw for lacrosse fans. Another location that has proximity to major highways and airport hubs, this would make a lot of sense. A major issue would be working the Academy schedules to see if it would be feasible.
SHI Stadium – Rutgers University – Piscataway, NJ
Another site that has hosted multiple Championship weekends. Rutgers has gone under a tremendous transformation in years past and would be a centralized location for many. Its proximity to i95 and Newark Airport makes it an attractive destination. With it being a BIG Ten institution, the University has shown it can host large events and its proximity to amenities make it an attractive destination due to its ability to host multiple teams.
The Dome – Syracuse University – Syracuse, NY
Is it safe to go back into the Carrier Dome? A sleeper pick for sure, but Syracuse is more than capable of hosting Championship Weekend. While it may not be the most ideal location for the weekend, it does have the ability to host as it has before. This is the home of one of the most iconic moves in lacrosse history, and would be a great location for the weekend. Weather would not be an option as it is always Sunny and 75 degrees in the Dome. Located in Central NY, Syracuse hasn’t had any issues with logistics as it currently a member of the ACC.
Red Bull Arena – Harrison, NJ
For all the reasons stated above with Rutgers, only this has never been done at a Soccer specific stadium before. While many will be turned off at the seating capacity (25,000) many may think this is exactly what the sport needs. A sold out stadium on Championship weekend would look amazing on TV and could be the model for future championship weekends. The PLL has shown lacrosse can work in soccer stadiums, and this may be the time to see if it would make sense for the NCAA’s.