FIFA World Cup Bid Task Force Visits Atlanta for Host City Evaluation

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Some of the top decision-makers in the soccer world were in Atlanta this weekend as they weigh up who will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. It was the second stop in North America for the FIFA Bid Evaluation Task Force in its technical tour of the United Bid of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

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,” said Atlanta United president Darren Eales.

The tour stopped at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Georgia World Congress Center. From world-class training facilities to exhibition space to the most state-of-the-art stadium in the world, the goal was to show this city has it all.

“The message was that Atlanta can host a world-class event,” Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said. “We’re really proud of this city and I think we were able to show a little bit of our fan culture here, the excitement in the city surrounding the soccer team, and just how much that would grow and be exponentially greater if we host a World Cup.”

The 2026 United Bid is presenting their vision for the future of football focusing on unity, opportunity and certainty in focus, and they say Atlanta embodies these values with their fan base, facilities and infrastructure needed for the biggest event in world sports.

“We wanted to give FIFA a flavor of the amazing story of Atlanta United,” Eales said. “This was a city that they said soccer couldn’t succeed in, and of course now we’re averaging over 50,000 fans so far this year. They’re also the most passionate in this country and compare with fan bases from other countries in the world. We wanted to show FIFA that if we can have a World Cup in 2026 with 8 years of planning and preparation, there’s a real chance to use Atlanta as a microcosm of what could happen to the rest of the country.”

On top of having the infrastructure needed to put on an event of this magnitude, what’s equally important is the soccer culture that’s thrived in Atlanta. Eales said he believes it’s the perfect showcase of what soccer can be in America, and it can act as a catalyst for the beautiful game across the rest of the nation.

“We already see in cities such as Atlanta, Portland, Seattle and Toronto, that there’s areas with real passion and support,” Eales said. “But bringing a World Cup here brings a chance to grow the fan to the casual fan, perhaps that fan who’s never been to a game before but is attracted to the World Cup and the glitz and glamor around that. This could be a real legacy. It started in 1994, setting up Major League Soccer. But this could cap it off and really cement soccer as the #1 sport in the area.”

The Bid Evaluation Task Force wraps up the week with visits to Toronto and New York/New Jersey, and are also considering Morocco as a host venue. They are expected to announce the winner of the bid and the 2026 World Cup hosts later this Summer.