FIFA announced on Sunday what level of matches will be played in each of the 16 cities in the U.S., Mexico and Canada that will serve as hosts for the 48-team tournament, the largest field in World Cup history. Because they are hosts, the U.S., Mexico and Canada have automatically qualified. More than 200 countries will compete for one of the slots in the final, which will consist of 104 matches.
“This will be like hosting eight Super Bowls,” Atlanta Sports Council President Dan Corso said on Sunday.
Atlanta learned in 2022 that it would host part of the World Cup. Until Sunday’s announcement, city officials had no idea what level of matches it would host. They were watching the show on FOX just like the rest of the nation to find out how many matches they would host and at what level.
“This is a momentous occasion and a true celebration of the beautiful game of soccer in our city,” Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL’s Falcons and MLS’ Atlanta United, said in a statement. “The FIFA World Cup 2026 brings people together in a way that transcends borders and makes this tournament an unforgettable journey for fans globally. We look forward to welcoming the world to Atlanta and Mercedes-Benz Stadium for eight matches, including a semifinal in 2026.”
Hosting the World Cup is arguably the most important step in the explosive increase in popularity of the sport in the city and state. In April, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host the SheBelieves Cup, featuring the U.S. women’s national team. In June, it will host two matches in the Copa America, featuring Argentina in the first and the U.S. in the second. By 2026, the U.S. Soccer Federation will be deep into the construction of its new headquarters and first-ever National Training Center near Fayetteville. There is no correlation between the expected completion of the training center and all three United States’ group stage games all being played on the west coast. The U.S. is expected to use the training center in its preparations for the tournament. Atlanta United has led MLS in attendance in each of its first seven seasons and is the constant pulse of interest in the sport in the city.
And ... it’s not done. Atlanta officials have said they would like to host the world broadcast center for the 2026 World Cup. They have bid to host. FIFA hasn’t announced a timeline for a decision. The Club World Cup is scheduled to be played in 2025 and Atlanta is interested in hosting part of it. The 2027 Women’s World Cup is scheduled to be played and Atlanta officials have said they are interested in hosting part of it.
The 2026 World Cup is scheduled to start on June 11, 2026 with the opening match featuring Mexico in Mexico City at Estadio Azteca. Canada’s opening match as a team and country will be played June 12 in Toronto at BMO Field. It will feature Canada. The U.S. men’s team’s first match as a team and country will be played on June 12 in Los Angeles. Though the United States Soccer Federation hopes it have its training center completed ahead of the 2026 World Cup, all of the U.S. men’s group stage matches will be played on the West Coast.
The championship is scheduled to be played July 19 in New Jersey. Miami will host the third-place match. Dallas will host the other semifinal on July 14. Only one other city, Dallas, will host more matches than Atlanta.
The 48 teams will be divided into 12 groups of four. Each team will play the others in their group once. Winners get three points and a draw is worth one. The top two teams from each group, plus the eight-best third-place teams, will advance to the knockout rounds, which are single-elimination. Argentina is the defending champion.
“With world-class venues, accommodations, and our unmatched Southern hospitality, Georgia is ready to welcome the world to our capital city for the FIFA World Cup 2026,” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said in a statement. “With a strong record of hosting major sporting events, the people of our state are prepared and capable to meet the needs of this once-in-a-lifetime event and leave visitors with a reason to keep Georgia on their minds.”
The U.S. previously hosted the World Cup in 1994. Atlanta was not one of the host sites. This will be Mexico’s third time hosting after having done so in 1970, won by Pele’s Brazil, and 1986, won by Diego Maradona’s Argentina. It will be Canada’s first time hosting the men’s World Cup.
“Thirty years after the Centennial Olympic Games, Atlanta will once again host a global audience and some of the world’s greatest athletes for the FIFA World Cup 2026,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement. “In that time, our city has continued to become a reflection of this beautiful game – we are diverse, inclusive and growing every day. Much like 1996, we will work with all our partners to ensure the FIFA World Cup 2026 has a positive, equitable impact on our communities for generations.”