Atlanta United credited with helping city land spot as World Cup host

Darren Eales, President Atlanta United FC, takes questions during the Host City announcement press conference for the 2026 World Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, June 16, 2022, in Atlanta.     “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Combined ShapeCaption
Darren Eales, President Atlanta United FC, takes questions during the Host City announcement press conference for the 2026 World Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, June 16, 2022, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Atlanta United, its supporters and the experience of watching the team play an MLS game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium were credited as playing key roles in Atlanta being selected on Thursday as one of 16 host sites for the 2026 World Cup.

“Anyone who’s been to an Atlanta United game in this stadium already knows that Atlanta is the place to be,” Mayor Andre Dickens said. “So Atlanta knows a little bit about turning up and turning out for soccer.”

ExploreAtlanta will host part of 2026 World Cup

The team holds numerous league attendance records, including nine of the top 10 most-attended games in MLS history, has led the league in average attendance since its inaugural season in 2017, and holds the attendance record for an MLS Cup final and U.S. Open Cup final.

“The World Cup was last played in America in 1994,” Gov. Brian Kemp said. “And it will return to a far different soccer culture in 2026. No city embodies this transition more than Atlanta, which has wholeheartedly embraced soccer and supported its growth since their inaugural season in 2017. Our very own Atlanta United has set attendance records for soccer matches in the U.S, with an average average attendance rivaling some of the biggest clubs in the world.”

Officials from FIFA attended an Atlanta United game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in September during a site visit.

“They see the atmosphere here, they see the fever around the region for this sport,” Atlanta United Vice President Carlos Bocanegra said.

Atlanta United is putting together plans to try to take advantage of what is already has, and grow it, during the next four years before the World Cup starts.

Club President Darren Eales pointed out that the 1994 World Cup, the first held in the United States, was the most-ticketed tournament in its history. He hopes the excitement of the next World Cup, which will be hosted by sites in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, will attract more of the casual fans to the sport and team.

“So we couldn’t be more excited about the prospects of this next four years,” Eales said. “The hard work starts now. We’ve got to think about how do we capture this? We can’t afford to fritter any time away. This is for years. And look, I think, you know, from us with Atlanta United, we’re always thinking ahead strategically. We’re going to be doing that now for the next four years on how can we grow the game in the state of Georgia, because this isn’t just about Atlanta.”

ExploreThe AJC's complete coverage on Atlanta United
Combined ShapeCaption
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium 360-degree HD video screen helps announce Atlanta has been selected as a host city for the 2026 World Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, June 16, 2022, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium 360-degree HD video screen helps announce Atlanta has been selected as a host city for the 2026 World Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, June 16, 2022, in Atlanta.     “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium 360-degree HD video screen helps announce Atlanta has been selected as a host city for the 2026 World Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, June 16, 2022, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Atlanta United consistently sells out its home games, whether the stadium is formatted for soccer capacity, which is approximately 42,500, or the full capacity, which is around 72,000. An increase in interest could result in the team opening the stadium to full capacity more frequently in future seasons. It currently opens to full capacity 3-5 times a season.

“No one can argue that we’re the number one city here in the country of America in terms of that soccer experience, because we get it day in and day out,” Eales said.

Asked how a club that already sells out its games can take advantage of increased interest, Bocanegra said he hopes the World Cup will raise awareness of the club around the world.

“I think that’s some of the halo effect that we’ll get and hopefully it just puts us on the front of people’s minds around the world, not only Atlanta,” he said.

For more content about Atlanta United

Follow me on Twitter @DougRobersonAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta United News Now

On Instagram at DouglasDavidRoberson

Atlanta United coverage on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Southern Fried Soccer podcast can be found

Apple - https://apple.co/3ISD6Ve

Spotify - https://spoti.fi/3L8TN0C

Google podcasts - https://bit.ly/32KlZW3

If you are listening to us for the first time, please follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcast...and if you like what you hear please give us a good rating so we can grow the show.

And the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a special offer for Atlanta United supporters and listeners to this podcast. If you subscribe today you will not only get unlimited digital access to the AJC and the Sunday paper for $2.30 a week but we are also throwing in a special limited edition Atlanta United and Atlanta Journal Constitution scarf. Sign up now at subscribe.ajc.com/utdscarf.

Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 vs Miami, 3 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

August 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

August 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

August 21 at Columbus, 5:30 p.m., FS1

August 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

August 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE