It’s been over two decades since the 1996 Olympic Games, but Atlanta will once again be at the global epicenter of sports. FIFA recently announced its host cities for the 2026 World Cup, and after a successful lobbying campaign, Atlanta was named as one of the 16 North American cities to hold World Cup matches.
2026 is four years away. By that time it’s hopeful Georgia sports betting will be available and offered legally to residents. And how much more fun would it be if you can attend a match and bet on a game?
It’s official: The city of Atlanta is a soccer town.
“So FIFA has found out something that we have already known for a little while here in Atlanta—that Atlanta is a soccer town.”Atlanta’s Mayor Andre Dickens via WSBTV
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to the Atlanta Falcons and 2018 MLS Cup-winning Atlanta United, will be the official venue. And the stadium is one of the most lauded stadiums in the world of sports for its design, accessibility, and features. It will prove the perfect site for the top soccer tournament on the planet.
FIFA’s decision was the culmination of multiple years of organizing and campaigning by the city to the FIFA World Cup Bid Committee. Atlanta made its case as a prime destination in the South by showcasing its:
- World-class soccer stadium
- Cultural and historic charms
- Unique food and beverage scene
And a destination that would make an excellent location for the 2026 World Cup.
Soccer as both sport and culture for Atlanta, Georgia
The decision comes as no surprise to the Five Stripes faithful. Since its inaugural season in 2017, Atlanta United has dominated MLS in attendance, shattering previous league records in the process.
For their home fixture against L.A. Galaxy in 2019, United sold 72,548 tickets, eclipsing the previous mark of 72,243 set in 2018 … by Atlanta United.
Atlantans have demonstrated their embrace of soccer as both sport and culture is as Southern as pecan pie. And that local enthusiasm for The Beautiful Game is one – if not the – reason Georgians will have World Cup matches hosted in their home state.
From the 1990 Olympics to 2026 FIFA World Cup host
The summer of 1990 was the last time Atlanta was in the mix to host an international sporting event, as then-mayor Maynard Jackson continued lobbying for the city to host the XXVI Olympiad. Atlanta was awarded its bid in August of 1990, becoming the third US city to host the Summer Olympic Games.
What followed was over five years of construction to overhaul the city in preparation for the Olympics – including the development of:
- Centennial Olympic Park
- Olympic Stadium – which was converted into the then brand new home of the Braves
- Turner Field
- Lake Lanier Olympic Park
It was a fruitful investment, as the Georgia World Congress Center reported that preparation for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games has attracted $2.2 billion in new development downtown.
Along with putting Atlanta on the global sporting map, it catalyzed the city’s transformation into a stateside destination.
Now, the 2026 World Cup will not come with an Olympian level of construction. But it will bring the globe’s gaze to Atlanta. And by that time, FIFA president Gianni Infantino fully expects soccer to be the top sport in North America.
In other words: the World Cup is coming stateside at exactly the right time.
We’re mere months away from the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but Atlantans have their eyes trained firmly on 2026. That’s when Atlanta can truly showcase its passion for the game on the international stage and show the world why the city was such a solid selection to host FIFA matches.
Photo by Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock