Atlanta will host Copa America opening match

A soccer fans shows pride for both sides before a Copa America Centenario semifinal soccer match between the United States and Argentina Tuesday, June 21, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Credit: David J. Phillip

Credit: David J. Phillip

A soccer fans shows pride for both sides before a Copa America Centenario semifinal soccer match between the United States and Argentina Tuesday, June 21, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Copa America’s opening match is scheduled to be held at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on June 20, 2024. FIFA announced the host sites for the first game and the finale, which will be held in Miami, on Monday.

Hosting the opening game will be the most important international soccer match to take place in Atlanta and will provide a good run-up to the city’s role in hosting part of the 2026 World Cup. Grass will be installed for the Copa America match and the stadium will be open to full capacity.

The tournament is organized by CONCACAF, the region composed of the national federations from U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and CONMEBOL, composed of the national federations of South America. Ticket information has yet to be announced. The tournament’s draw, which will include the opening game, is expected in December.

It will be the 48th edition of the tournament, which is the championship for South America’s men’s national teams. It will include 10 teams from South America, and six from CONCACAF. Argentina is the defending champ. It defeated Brazil 1-0 in 2021 in Brazil.

“We expect stadiums filled with the passion of the entire American continent for the inauguration and final of an unforgettable CONMEBOL Copa America,” Alejandro Dominguez, president of CONMEBOL, said in a statement provided by the South American federation. “In Atlanta, the ball will start rolling and it won’t stop for a month until the final match in Miami.”

The tournament is scheduled to be played June 20-July 14. It will be the second time the tournament has been held in the U.S. The last time was 2016.

Securing the match was done, in part, with work by the Atlanta Sports Council and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The process began earlier this year and included tours by CONMEBOL officials.

Atlanta should get a match filled with international standouts. Past opening matches in the tournament include Brazil vs. Peru in 2021, Brazil vs. Paraguay in Brazil in 2019, the U.S. vs. Ecuador in the U.S. in 2016, Chile vs. Uruguay in Chile in 2015 and Argentina vs. Uruguay in Argentina in 2011.

“I think it’s going to be one of the most important soccer matches in the world next year,” Atlanta United President Garth Lagerwey said. “I just think what better advertisement for our team and our sport than to have the best teams in the world in our building playing for meaningful stakes.

“The U.S. and Mexico and Canada have already qualified for the World Cup 2026. This is the most important tournament they will play at any point in preparation for that. And so the United States, now in our backyard, this becomes a really, really exciting tournament that I think will have global impact.”

Along with becoming the host of the U.S. Soccer Federation, hosting the Copa America opener and part of the World Cup are more steps toward helping the city achieve its hope of being known as the capital of soccer in the U.S.

Atlanta has already hosted several international soccer matches, including the semifinals of the Gold Cup in 2015 at the Georgia Dome. Mexico has played in the city 10 times against various opponents.

Within club soccer, the city has hosted the MLS Cup and All-Star match in 2018, the U.S. Open Cup final and Campeones Cup final in 2019, and the NASL championship in 1968. There was a doubleheader featuring teams from England’s Premier League this summer, which CONMEBOL officials were on hand to watch.

“They were able to see that action so they got to see the venue hosting great international soccer,” ASC President Dan Carso said. “It was great timing.”

Looking ahead, Atlanta’s World Cup organizers have yet to be told by FIFA what matches it will host in the 2026 World Cup. Based upon questions asked by FIFA members, it is believed the city will host group stage matches, as well as one of the two semifinals. Corso said Atlanta is also interested in hosting the communications center for the 2026 World Cup, and being part of the 2025 Club World Cup featuring the best clubs from around the world. There are other possibilities, including an upcoming Women’s World Cup.

“The more soccer content that we can try to provide the community, I think the better, and we’ve got a great venue and a great partner at MBS in the stadium in order to do that,” Corso said. “So we’ll continue to look at every opportunity.”

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