US bid fea­tures At­lanta’s hot soc­cer scene

The Korea Times - - SPORTS - AT­LANTA (AP)

— At­lanta’s bur­geon­ing soc­cer scene was fea­tured in North Amer­ica’s suc­cess­ful bid for 2026 World Cup.

Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium was shown off in the videos the North Amer­i­can bid of­fi­cials played for FIFA vot­ers Wed­nes­day in Rus­sia. The im­ages were all shiny, new and im­pres­sive — from the sta­dium’s re­tractable roof and huge oval video board to the all-im­por­tant shots of sell­out crowds for MLS At­lanta United.

The video ev­i­dence helped sway FIFA to over­whelm­ingly ap­prove the bid from the United States, Mex­ico and Canada. The bid sug­gested At­lanta and Dal­las as host sites for 2026 semi­fi­nals, and At­lanta United sea­son ticket-holder Ken Harper can’t wait.

“Based on the world-wide in­ter­est in the World Cup, I think it has the po­ten­tial to have the same im­pact the Olympics did in ‘96 on our city,” Harper said Wed­nes­day. “I think it’s fan­tas­tic.”

In its sec­ond sea­son, At­lanta United al­ready has set three MLS sin­gle-game at­ten­dance records, most re­cently 72,035 for a March 11 win over D.C. United. The At­lanta home av­er­age of 48,200 for the 2017 sea­son also set a record. “You have one of the best sta­di­ums in the world full of pas­sion­ate soc­cer fans,” Harper said.

The World Cup will re­turn to the U.S. for the first time since 1994. It was an im­por­tant win, es­pe­cially with the U.S. left out of the 2018 World Cup field in Rus­sia.

Mex­ico Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto ex­pressed pride his na­tion will be the first to host three World Cups, fol­low­ing 1970 and 1986. Pena Ni­eto said FIFA’s de­ci­sion is a vote of con­fi­dence in Mex­ico and added “it is not only our peo­ple and our fam­i­lies, our com­pa­nies and our busi­ness­peo­ple, soc­cer also knows that Canada, the United States and Mex­ico are deeply united.”

Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau used Twit­ter to of­fer con­grat­u­la­tions “to every­one who worked hard on this bid — it’s go­ing to be a great tour­na­ment!”

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