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Atlanta chosen as a host city for 2026 FIFA World Cup

Games to be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium; more than $400 million could be earned in revenue, city sports exec says
The Qatar FIFA World Cup trophy is on display during the Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola kick-off...
The Qatar FIFA World Cup trophy is on display during the Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola kick-off today with a first-stop event in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, May 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)(Kamran Jebreili | AP)
Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 5:32 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2022 at 9:02 AM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - The world’s most popular sporting event is coming to Atlanta.

On Thursday, Atlanta was chosen as one of 16 host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The host cities were announced during a nationally televised hour-long broadcast. The tournament will be played with 48 teams and, for the first time, will be held across three nations: the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The tournament will be divided into three regions: East, Central and West. Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Guadalajara, Mexico, will host the western games.

Atlanta was classified as a central region host, along with Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Monterrey, Mexico and Mexico City. Eastern region cities hosting the tournament are Toronto; Boston; Philadelphia; Miami; and New York/New Jersey.

“Atlanta certainly has experience hosting top-tier sporting events in our city, including three Super Bowls and the Olympics, so it’s very exciting to add this incredible event to that rich history,” the Atlanta City Council said in a statement. “Our city has the venues and the fan base for a truly special atmosphere. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our city to the world once again.”

“The World Cup is one of the most-watched events across the world, and Atlanta has shown that we’re a passionate soccer city with all the success of Atlanta United,” said City Council President Doug Shipman. “As a season ticket holder for the United and an avid fan, this is a special moment. I’m thrilled for our city to host the best players in the world and to see Atlanta’s role as a truly international city reinforced in this way.”

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Atlanta’s games will be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where its Major League Soccer franchise, Atlanta United, plays its home games. Atlanta United had the highest attendance average of any MLS team in 2021.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the city of Atlanta to continue to show the world what we have to offer,” said Arthur Blank, owner and chairman of The Blank Family of Businesses, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “Our stadium was built to host world-class events, and we would be honored to continue that tradition in 2026 with the World Cup.”

“We have the pleasure of celebrating Atlanta’s selection as a host city of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, because of our strong, bipartisan public-private partnerships and many who have been working for years to put Georgia on the map since we hosted the 1996 Olympics,” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “This premiere event will have a positive impact on so many hardworking Georgians. Hotels will fill with guests from around the world; restaurants will provide visitors a taste of the South they will not soon forget; attractions across Georgia will welcome those seeking to experience all the Peach State has to offer; and in each interaction, people will see Georgia’s Southern hospitality on full display.

“The world will be watching as we meet this moment, and we’re proud of all the entities who worked so hard to get us to this point.”

According to the official FIFA bid book, Atlanta and Dallas’ AT&T Stadium were recommended to host the tournament’s two semifinals based on geographic location, travel distances, and stadium capacities.

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“Atlanta is a soccer town, and we’re excited to bring the game’s best athletes to the world’s best city,” said Mayor Andre Dickens. “Atlanta has already been home to the Super Bowl and the Olympics, and through our strong collaboration with the State and our business community, we will welcome folks from all over the world to fill every seat in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2026.”

A host city could bring in more than $400 million in revenues during the 2026 World Cup, Dan Corso, president of the Atlanta Sports Council, said. Estimates from U.S. Soccer put that figure at more than $480 million.

Each match Atlanta puts on is expected to generate roughly $4.6 million in global media exposure. The rounds that the city will host will be announced by FIFA at a later date.

Hosting World Cup matches will bring an economic boost to the city: an impact analysis by the Boston Consulting Group during the initial bid process in 2017-18 found that the 2026 World Cup is forecasted to contribute $5BN in new economic activity. Of that, $415 million alone is estimated in net economic benefit for Atlanta, which is becoming renowned for its support of soccer after the recent successes of Atlanta United in Major League Soccer.

“We are thrilled to bring the world’s biggest sporting event to Atlanta,” said Corso. “Combining the assets of the state’s best public organizations and private companies has been a recipe for success here in Atlanta. We truly believe our city is the country’s premier location to hold a major sporting event and look forward to working with FIFA to create a remarkable experience for all involved.”

Corso said Atlanta is also in the running as the World Cup’s 2026 international broadcast center, which will be announced at a later date.

“While stadiums represent an essential element of the selection process, FIFA is considering the overarching proposals presented by each candidate host city, which are broader in nature and also include ancillary events and venues, and key aspects such as sustainability, human rights, legacy, general infrastructure and financial impact,” FIFA said in a statement back in May.

Corso and the Atlanta Sports Council organized Atlanta’s formal bid, along with Atlanta city officials; the state of Georgia; the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Georgia World Congress Center, and Mercedes Benz Stadium.

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Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Co. is one of FIFA’s partners, along with VISA, Adidas, Hyundai/Kia, Wanda Commercial Properties, Qatar Airways and QatarEnergy.

Corso said what made Atlanta stand out to FIFA organizers are its history of hosting premier sports events; its international connectivity through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; and its soccer fan base through Atlanta United.

Atlanta has a long history of hosting some of the nation’s - and the world’s - biggest sporting events, including the 1996 Summer Olympics; three Super Bowls; four NCAA men’s basketball’s Final Four tournaments; the annual NCAA college football SEC championship; two Major League Baseball All-Star games; three NBA All-Star games; and the 2018 College Football National Championship.