What does the 2026 World Cup Mean for Atlanta?

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The United bid by Canada, Mexico an the United States defeats the counter bid from Moroccos for the 2026 World Cup. Photo: The Bridge News

Every four years the world turns their eyes on one country (or three) as the best soccer players in the world gather to fight for the top prize in sports, the World Cup. This summer’s edition is being held on Russian soil, but in eight years the focus turns to Mexico, Canada, and the United States.

The United bid easily defeated the opposing bid from Morocco for the 2026 World Cup with the North Americans receiving 134 votes to Morocco’s 65. One of the biggest persuaders for bringing the tournament to the three countries is the expanded field that will take place in 2026, growing from 32 teams to 48 resulting in 80 matches from group stage to final.

The increase in matches needed to be played was influential in the decision to award the United bid with the Cup, as all the stadiums are already constructed or expected to be completed well before 2026.

Perhaps the most influential of these stadiums lies right in the heart of Atlanta, Mercedes Benz Stadium. The world-class facility has held Falcons games, record-breaking Atlanta United matches, and will soon have the eyes of the world when it prepares to host the beautiful game on the global scale.

“We’ve got Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the best stadium in the world,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said. “We’ve got a city that’s used to putting on big events like the Super Bowl, we’ve had the Olympics, and now we have Atlanta United which is showing that this is the biggest soccer city in America,”

The city has latched on to its club in only the second season of the Atlanta United’s existence, and there appears no sign of slowing down as Atlanta has again broken its own previous attendance record in the home opener against D.C. United to watch a 3-1 victory for the Five Stripes.

The record-breaking crowds, young talent, world-class facilities, and the ear-booming chants have caught the attention of the world and was influential in winning the votes from FIFA committee members.

“The passion and energy is unlike anywhere else and I think that’s a factor that really impressed the FIFA technical committee,” Eales said. “They came to the stadium, they watched a match, and realized that this is a place that absolutely gets soccer.”

CBS46 News reports that FIFA is considering Mercedes Benz Stadium to host the two semifinals for the tournament. With the final to be played in East Rutherford, New Jersey at MetLife Stadium home of the New York Giants and Jets.

“Through the Olympics, soon to be three Super Bowls, five Final Fours and numerous other world-class sporting events, Atlanta has proven that we have what it takes to host the World Cup successfully.” Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said.

So, for now, sit and enjoy the World Cup (I know it’s hard) but get ready Atlanta, the world will be here before you know it.