Leadoff: Atlanta has vested interest in 2026 World Cup vote


Atlanta’s sports-business community will be paying close attention to the outcome of  Wednesday’s vote by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, on where to play the 2026 World Cup. 

There are two bids on the ballot: a joint United States/Mexico/Canada bid and a competing bid from Morocco. The vote by FIFA’s member nations will be held in Moscow on the eve of the start of this year’s World Cup. 

Interest in the vote will be high among officials with the Atlanta Sports Council, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Atlanta United because Atlanta figures to play a prominent role in the 2026 event if the U.S./Canada/Mexico bid prevails. 

The joint bid proposes that the two semifinals would be played in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, citing “geographic location, travel distances and stadium capacity.”

That proposal comes with no guarantee, even if the U.S./Canada/Mexico bid wins Wednesday’s vote. The bid names 23 cities in the three nations as candidates to host World Cup matches eight years from now and says that if the bid is successful the number would be whittled down to 16 “official host cities” by June 2021. 

That would leave plenty of time for negotiation and competition, as the bid makes clear: “The (joint) bid offers FIFA 23 qualified stadiums – more than the required number -- and all are ready to compete to offer the best possible experience for players and officials, fans, partners, media, and other stakeholders, giving FIFA maximum flexibility and leverage. The (joint) bid will work with FIFA to select the final 16 stadiums for the competition.” 

The bid also recommends either Atlanta or Dallas as host of the international broadcast center during the 2026 event.

A FIFA committee visited Atlanta in April, touring Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Atlanta United’s training facility.

“The message (to FIFA) is simple,” Atlanta Sports Council president Dan Corso said during that visit. “We are a city that is built to host the biggest sporting events in the world, and the World Cup is that. 

“We have the venues – Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Georgia World Congress Center – surrounded by thousands of hotel rooms … in a compact district.” 

Corso and others stressed the city’s history of hosting huge sports events, including the Olympics, Super Bowls and Final Fours. 

“The World Cup is the one that we haven’t had, so we would love to add that to the roster,” Corso said. 

Atlanta’s message to FIFA also emphasized the popularity of the city’s MLS team. 

“We tried to give them a sense of how soccer has taken off here in the city of Atlanta and what that could mean for this region, America, Canada and Mexico, if we can get the World Cup in 2026,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said during the April visit.  

For the 2026 World Cup, the number of participating teams will increase from 32 to 48 and the number of matches from 64 to 80. If the North American bid prevails over Morocco, 10 matches would be played in Canada, 10 in Mexico and 60 in the U.S. The bid proposes MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., as the site of the 2026 final.

But first things first: Wednesday’s vote in Moscow. 

* * * 

LEADOFF LINKS 

> Braves fans are having a big impact in early voting for the National League All-Star team. See Gabe Burns’ story here.  

> Julio Jones, apparently unhappy with his current contract, will skip the Falcons’ “mandatory” minicamp that begins today. See D. Orlando Ledbetter’s report here and Mark Bradley’s column here.

> The University of Georgia’s dynamo track coach delivers on promise of national championships, DawgNation’s Chip Towers writes.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Will former 5-star WR, Cal transfer Demetris Robertson consider UGA?
Will former 5-star WR, Cal transfer Demetris Robertson consider UGA?

South Carolina recruiting classes impress now, and in the future
South Carolina recruiting classes impress now, and in the future

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here. With the No. 8 overall class in ...
Penn State football recruiting: Latest updates on Nittany Lions’ next class
Penn State football recruiting: Latest updates on Nittany Lions’ next class

Penn State has assembled a top-20 recruiting class in each of the last four cycles, most recently signing a top-5 class last winter. The Nittany Lions are well underway constructing another talented group of prospects set to enroll in 2019, including six who’ve committed since May 17. Here’s the latest look at updates...
Nebraska recruiting: Updates on Huskers’ next class
Nebraska recruiting: Updates on Huskers’ next class

Ronald Thompkins became the ninth member of Nebraska’s 2019 recruiting class a week ago when he announced his commitment to the Huskers. June has been a big month for Nebraska, as it’s added four commits in the last three weeks. Let’s take a closer look at how Nebraska’s 2019 recruiting class stacks up. Despite Thompkins&rsquo...
Josh Okogie is drafted: ‘It’s just the best moment of my life, by far’
Josh Okogie is drafted: ‘It’s just the best moment of my life, by far’

Up against the jubilant throng gathered in the side room at Boogalou Restaurant Lounge in Midtown, NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s voice had no chance of being heard through the end of the sentence. The moment was flush with anticipation, excitement and happiness. Family, friends and teammates of Josh Okogie had descended upon the Midtown establishment...
More Stories