A new Populous-designed dugout and canopy at Estadio Azteca, part of the stadium’s renovations in preparation for hosting the 2026 World Cup finals, adds a modern and distinctive touch to one of soccer’s most beloved stadiums.
The Estadio Azteca is sacred ground in the soccer world. Originally designed by Mexican architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez over half a century ago, the “Colossus of Saint Ursula,” as it’s locally known, has seen some of the greatest matches in history, and is the only stadium in the world to have hosted two FIFA World Cup Finals.
“The first and only time I’ve cried at the end of a soccer match was aged nine during the 1986 World Cup Finals at the Azteca Stadium,” explains Tim Reeves, Senior Associate at Populous. “Diego Maradona scored for Argentina against England that day, eliminating them from the finals. So, as an Englishman working on this project, it’s been incredible to be involved with a stadium that holds a special place in my heart.”
In 2026, the stadium will host its third World Cup Finals in a joint effort between Mexico, Canada and the U.S.A. In preparation for the event and to welcome back LigaMX as soccer returns, stadium owner Televisa is making a variety of improvements across the entire facility, including relocating the dugout and player benches and constructing a new state-of-the-art canopy.
The new Populous-designed dugout and canopy was relocated from the west side of the pitch to the east to accommodate the new camera positions within the bowl. As part of the design, the new players’ bench sits partly beneath pitch level, allowing perfect views of the action for those fans seated directly behind the dugout.
The new canopy was inspired by the original tessellation on the Telstar and Azteca soccer balls designed and used during the previous 1970 and 1986 World Cup Finals in Mexico. Populous incorporated the hexagonal and pentagonal patterns into the design of the new dugout canopy that fans across the globe will immediately recognize as belonging to Mexico and the Azteca Stadium. The manufacturer that provided the PTFE fabric used on the exterior of Allianz Field in Minnesota also produced and installed the ETFE polymer material used to create the new canopy. The air-filled pillows simultaneously protect players and officials from the elements while providing spectators and television cameras a clear view of the action through the transparent material.
The design of modern dugouts for international soccer must cater to the highest expectations of FIFA and elite players, and the new Azteca dugout is no exception.
“The new dugout and canopy feature luxury padded car-style sports chairs, data and power points throughout, and programmable LED lighting within the canopy structure that illuminates to celebrate any goal or occasion,” Reeves noted. “It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience for fans and players alike.”
The Estadio Azteca now has the newest and most stylish player dugout facilities in world soccer, befitting this unique and legendary venue.
Populous is a global architecture and design firm that designs the places where people love to be together, like Yankee Stadium, the London Olympics, and the Super Bowl. Over the last 37 years, the firm has designed more than 3,000 projects worth $40 billion across emerging and established markets. Populous’ comprehensive services include architecture, interior design, event planning and overlay, branded environments, wayfinding and graphics, planning and urban design, landscape architecture, aviation and transport design, hotels and hospitality, and sustainable design consulting. Populous has 18 offices on four continents and more than 700 employees with regional centers in Kansas City, London and Brisbane.