Atlanta United reacts to World Cup and new TV deal

Darren Eales, President of Atlanta United, 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@

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Darren Eales, President of Atlanta United, 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 and the rest of teams in MLS got two important pieces of news in the past few days with the announcement of the 2026 World Cup host sites, which includes Atlanta, and the $2.5 billion media deal agreed to between the league and Apple.

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“Massive” was the word used most frequently by Atlanta United President Darren Eales, Vice President Carlos Bocanegra, manager Gonzalo Pineda and player Emerson Hyndman when asked about the impact of the news.

“I think for us this idea that now you can get every match, every game in one location with a partner who’s Apple, one of the most innovative companies in the world, one of the best marketing companies in the world, first time they’ve done this, obviously, you know, shows that the strength of feeling that they have towards MLS and the growth of soccer in North America,” Eales said.

The 10-year agreement calls for every MLS game to be broadcast through a channel on Apple TV, which is available in more than 100 countries, with no geo-blocking. The annual increase in revenue to the league is more than $150 million per year than the previous deal. The new deal begins in 2023.

“I know they (MLS) will reinvest this in the league, and I think is going to also help with that momentum that the league has to grow even more,” Pineda said. “I’m just excited about being part of that.”

Pineda said he hopes the league allows teams to invest some of the additional revenues in academies because the “future is always young players.” He also hopes that teams can use some of the money to improve the experience for fans at games.

Eales said Thursday that he hopes that the additional revenue will result in an increase in the salary budget so that MLS teams can be more competitive with other leagues in signing more quality players.

The other big event, the World Cup, won’t happen for four years, but the impact will be felt sooner rather than later in ways small and large, from people trying the sport, to watching the sport, to attending the sport.

Bocanegra said that it may result in kids who might have gravitated toward a sport other than soccer trying to play soccer.

Hyndman thinks bringing a global crowd will raise the bar for the fan experience.

“Our fans are amazing and show up in numbers,” Hyndman said. “But to make it almost a worldwide event, have our stadium hosting, is incredible, especially with the amount of people we can actually hold in the stadium. It’ll be an amazing atmosphere and obviously great for the city.”

Pineda was working and didn’t watch the draw, instead finding out through social media. He said he didn’t watch because he presumed that Atlanta would be selected as one of the 11 sites in the U.S. Pineda did use the news Friday to try to motivate his team, which will host Miami on Sunday, asking:

“Who’s gonna be there playing for his national team, who’s gonna be there in four years?” Pineda said. “And who has that mentality from now preparing for four years? We’re in the Mercedes-Benz (Stadium) with their national team and singing the national anthem in there.”

Pineda was 4 years old when Mexico hosted the tournament a second time in 1986. He said he doesn’t remember the tournament, but he does remember in the next years kids trying to re-create two famous goals scored by legend Diego Maradona during Argentina’s games. He thinks the same thing will happen around the city and Georgia after 2026.

“So I’m just excited for the momentum that MLS has, the momentum that the U.S. National Team has with a lot of young, talented players and the momentum in four years having organizing a World Cup here is going to be massive for the development of the soccer culture in America,” he said.

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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