Mercedes-Benz Stadium already working on 2026 World Cup

FILE - Mercedes-Benz stadium is seen, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Atlanta. The 2026 World Cup final will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on July 19. FIFA made the announcement Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, at a Miami television studio, allocating the opener of the 39-day tournament to Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca on June 11. Semifinals will be played on July 14 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the following day at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

FILE - Mercedes-Benz stadium is seen, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Atlanta. The 2026 World Cup final will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on July 19. FIFA made the announcement Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, at a Miami television studio, allocating the opener of the 39-day tournament to Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca on June 11. Semifinals will be played on July 14 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and the following day at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

Now that Atlanta knows it will be hosting eight matches in the 2026 World Cup, the work begins.

The stadium has already begun the process of putting in the technology that allow it to put in and maintain grass during the month of matches. Atlanta and Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host matches on June 15, June 18, June 21, June 24 and June 27 in the group stage. It will host a knockout round match on July 1, a Round of 16 match on July 7 and a semifinal on July 15.

Representatives of one “big” European national team have toured the stadium and inquired about possible playing games and training sites. Others have also made inquiries about possibly playing in the stadium before the World Cup.

Dietmar Exler, COO of Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment and who manages Mercedes-Benz Stadium, said he anticipates many more inquiries after the Euros and Copa America, which includes two matches in Atlanta, are played this summer.

Dan Corso, President of the Atlanta Sports Council, said four sites for any national teams that want to either make their headquarters in Atlanta or train before matches have been identified: Kennesaw State, Atlanta United, Pace Academy and Georgia State.

Corso, and others were scheduled to meet with FIFA officials and representatives from other host cities through Zoom on Monday to talk about what’s next. It’s another in a series of meetings held between the parties for the past months and will continue through the start of the tournament on June 11, 2026 in Mexico City. FIFA officials have visited the stadium many times in past years.

“That’s what’s interesting about this event,” Corso said. “It’s the same event happening across 11 U.S. cities all at the same time. So you can create some best practices with other cities to say, how are you handling this? Or what are you going to do there? Or do you have a creative idea here? We all share. It’s different than a one-time event, perhaps like a Super Bowl.”

Putting in temporary grass is the only anticipated major change that the stadium will need, according to Exler. As part of the recent tour by FIFA officials, Exler said many things were checked, including the lights, the sound system and the wi-fi. He said they are waiting on FIFA’s results.

“We are in a very fortunate situation, that we have 50 events a year, that we have a ton of marquee events,” he said. “So we’re always dealing with quality requirements from everybody. So we seem to be in pretty good shape.”

FIFA is scheduled to hold the draw in Dec. 2025 for the 12 groups of four teams that will compete in the World Cup. It was announced on Sunday that the U.S. will play its first three matches on West Coast in Los Angeles and Seattle. Corso said he’s hoping that after the U.S. advances Atlanta will get to host one of its matches. The U.S. Soccer Federation is expected to break ground in April on its new headquarters and first-ever National Training Center in Fayette County.

Corso said he anticipates trying to work with consulates in the city and trade offices whose national teams will be competing to enhance the World Cup experience in Atlanta with watch parties and fan festivals.

“There’s a lot of buildup and excitement that can be created in this year, next year and into the actual event,” he said. “We want to be able to make sure that this event happens to all parts of metro Atlanta and not just downtown. And we, we expect to be able to work with FIFA to make that happen.”

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Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 at Columbus, 2 p.m.

March 9 vs. New England, 7:30 p.m.

March 17 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

March 23 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

March 31 vs. Chicago, 3:30 p.m., FOX

April 6 at NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

April 14 vs. Philadelphia, 2:30 p.m., FOX

April 20 vs. Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

April 27 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m.

May 4 vs. Minnesota, 7:30 p.m.

May 11 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

May 15 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

May 18 at Nashville, 1:30 p.m.

May 25 vs. LAFC, 7:30 p.m.

May 29 at Miami, 7:30 p.m.

June 2 vs Charlotte, 4:30 p.m., FOX

June 15 vs. Houston, 7:30 p.m.

June 19 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 22 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.

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