Atlanta holding breath for World Cup decision

It's not exactly the 1996 Summer Olympics announcement of two decades ago, but Atlanta officials will be holding their collective breathThursday morning for word about another huge international sporting event: the World Cup.

FIFA, the world soccer organization, is expected to announce whether the U. S. has won its bid for the 2022 games. The last time the U.S. was host was 1994. Other contenders as Qatar, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

If the U.S. prevails, Atlanta is among 18 American cities in the hunt to host a match in what is arguably the globe's biggest sport. Twelve will be selected.

Leaders will gather at sports bar Stats on Marietta Street for the announcement. To be considered, the city answered a request for proposal from the U.S.A. World Cup bid organization. That meant gathering information from  the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the Atlanta Sports Council and many others to describe Atlanta -- such as the number of hotel rooms, how many flights come through the airport, visitor traffic and the number of people who play soccer.

They peg potential World Cup business here at $400 million to $600 million, depending on the number of matches, associated events and if the city is chosen as the international press center, the domestic hub for international press. The Cup could create around 5,000 jobs, leaders said.

"That's huge because it's for the duration of the tournament," ACVB Spokeswoman Lauren Jarrell said of the international press center. "There are a number of ways we can benefit from a win."

Some point out Atlanta has work to do before the city is World Cup ready. The city could use more soccer fields, a Major League Soccer team and the biggest deficit: a FIFA-regulation stadium.

"It's going to be interesting to see what Atlanta comes up with to satisfy FIFA," said Terry Cecil, a member of the CEO Soccer Cabinet, a group of business leaders working to make soccer more prominent in the city.

While several successful exhibition soccer tournaments have been held at the Georgia Dome, leaders said the field is too narrow for FIFA. The Atlanta Falcons organization, hoping to build a new open-air stadium, has said a new facility for the team could double as a soccer field.

Others say the city has many soccer assets, including hundreds of thousands of youth and amateur players and a growing reputation for tournaments, including the Atlanta Cup. Kennesaw State University was  chosen in August to host the 2011 NCAA Women's College Cup.

"It's not the Olympics, but it's very, very big," said Clark Dean, another member of the CEO Soccer Cabinet.

“Our city-wide leaders put forth a tremendous effort over the past 18 months to put Atlanta in a position to potentially host the FIFA World Cup in 2022," said Dan Corso, executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council.