US bid features Atlanta’s hot soccer scene
— 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!”