Atlanta among shortlist of US cities likely to host games during 2026 World Cup

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The United States, Canada, and Mexico will be hosting the 2026 World Cup and Atlanta has a really good chance to host the final. (Photo: US Soccer)

Early Wednesday morning FIFA voted to award the 2026 World Cup bid to United 2026, a combined bid from the United States, Canada, and Mexico over Morocco, who was looking to host the tournament alone.

Amongst the many stateside cities in play for America’s part in the world’s largest soccer tournament will be Atlanta, home of the Atlanta United MLS soccer club and quite possibly the best indoor soccer facility in the country, Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The city of Atlanta is known for its hospitality and diversity in regards to entertainment and family fun. Only a half-hour drive from the country’s busiest airport, Atlanta is home to some of the biggest and most popular festivals, fairs and fan fest in the world, including Comic-Con this summer.

That said, there is one quadrennial sporting event that brings the world together like no other and Atlanta may get an opportunity to add it to the list of events. The 2026 World Cup is up for bid and the city of Atlanta is amongst 23 cities coming together as part of a North American effort to win the right to host arguably the world’s most popular sporting event.

The United 2026 bid, a combination of a bid developed and presented to the International Federation of Football (FIFA) by the soccer federations of Canada, Mexico, and the United States is one of the immense possibilities as it is the first ever combined effort to host a World Cup in three countries. Morocco 2026 was the sole contender to United 2026 for the rights to host the games. United 2026 earned garnered support from 200 of the 211 nations that voted for the bid. The official voting was 134-65 in favor of the United 2026 bid.

The plan is to have 23 cities from all three North American countries host matches and with the United State having the majority of the 23 cities, hosting 60 of a possible 80 matches.

The American cities include: Atlanta is the state of Georgia’s capital city and it’s World Cup host site if the bid passes. Pasadena, Inglewood and Santa Clara will be representing the state of California, Dallas and Houston will be representing Texas, East Rutherford, New Jersey, Baltimore and Landover representing Maryland, Kansas City as the Missouri representative, Denver as the Colorado representative, Miami and Orlando would be the Florida representatives and Foxborough, Nashville and Cincinnati would be representing Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Ohio, respectfully. All are soccer hotbeds and all have Major League Soccer (MLS) teams play either in stadiums in those respective cities or in a neighboring city.

Selling the World Cup to fans in these cities should not be a problem and that is the major reason Atlanta, in particular, is a hot property for FIFA. Atlanta United, the two-year-old MLS property, has been a major hit in Atlanta and the odds of the fans that support the home team supporting the country’s team and the World Cup, in general, are very high if the regular season attendance over the past two seasons, strong social media following, and local media attention are any proof.  

Atlanta United broke the MLS attendance record on Sept. 19, 2017, when 70,425 fans attended a match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (capacity 71,000) only days after 70,826 attended the Atlanta Falcons season opener against the Green Bay Packers. The potential for all 71,000 seats to be filled for a match between the United States and Mexico or England and France is more than just a possibility.

The United States hosted the 1994 World Cup but Atlanta was not one of the host cities participating due to winning the bid to host the 1996 Olympic Summer Games on Sept. 18, 1990. Atlanta hosted over 10,000 athletes for 271 events so a World Cup is more than doable.

Mexico has twice hosted a Worl Cup in 1970 and most recently in 1986. Canada has never hosted a men’s World Cup but did host the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Atlanta is already scheduled to host the 2019 Super Bowl and 2020 Final Four, both at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With the 2026 World Cup bid successful, matches played in Atlanta will more than likely be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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