What does the World Cup 2026 announcement mean for Atlanta?

Will we host any games? Hopefully.
Arthur Blank
Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Photograph courtesy of Atlanta United

This morning, as most people were checking their Twitter feeds to see if #mprraccoon had made it through the night after scaling a skyscraper in St. Paul, Minnesota (he did!), another major news story broke: the U.S.A, Mexico, and Canada will officially host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, beating a bid from Morocco. This is the first time the world’s biggest soccer tournament will be held in North America since 1994.

The winning bid submitted to FIFA (you can read all 530 pages online if your heart desires) called for 60 of the 80 games to be played in the U.S., with the final game held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey (a.k.a. the home of the New York Giants and Jets). Atlanta (and subsequently, Mercedes-Benz Stadium) was suggested in the bid to host the tournament’s semi-final round. The document details everything a selection committee would ever need to know about MBS—the number of fans it holds (75,000), the size of the pitch (a playing area of 105 m by 68 m), the number of “giant screens” at the stadium (three), and the number of toilets (more than 1,500). There’s also information about our airport (hello, world’s busiest!) and our overall transit infrastructure (hey, at least they put a pretty positive spin on it), plus stats on cell phone carrier coverage and Wi-Fi access.

The bid proposes that, if Atlanta is chosen as a host city, that the Atlanta Untied Training Center, Pace Academy Riverview Sports Complex, and Georgia State University could be used as team training facilities, with the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly, Loews Atlanta, Glen Hotel, and the St. Regis suggested as team hotels. It also recommends the Georgia World Congress Center as a venue for the tournament’s International Broadcast Center. (Dallas, Texas, hosted this venue during the 1994 World Cup and is recommended alongside us.) Centennial Olympic Park and Piedmont Park are both listed as potential “Fan Fest” locations, noting that, “Atlanta has a vibrant and rapidly growing football community.” (They have that right—how many MLS attendance records have Atlanta United fans broken again?)

But before you get too excited, know that we’ll have to wait quite a bit before we know whether or not we actually get any games. The 23 potential host cities in the bid will be narrowed down to 16, and we won’t have an official announcement on what those 16 cities are until June 2021, according to the AJC.

There’s reason to be hopeful—at least in our humble opinion. We’re an Olympic host city, and MBS will host both the MLS All-Star game later this year and the Super Bowl in February. Bring on the World Cup.