Gold Cup soccer coming back to Atlanta

The Gold Cup soccer tournament is coming back to Atlanta.

The city was named as one of several sites that will host a portion of the event in 2015.

The Gold Cup features the national teams from countries in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The tournament, which runs from July 7-26, features 12 teams and takes place every two years. The U.S. is the defending champ.

“Atlanta is passionate about soccer so to be selected as a site for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup is very exciting for metro Atlanta,” Dan Corso, executive director of the Atlanta Sports Council, said in a statement provided to the media.

The Georgia Dome will serve as host for a set of games in one of the knockout rounds: quarterfinals, semifinals or finals. The possible teams that will play in the Dome are not yet known because the groups won’t be announced until early 2015. Other knockout-round sites are Baltimore, Philadelphia and East Rutherford, N.J.

The Dome hosted a set of quarterfinals games in the 2013 Gold Cup in which Mexico defeated Trinidad and Tobago and Panama defeated Cuba. The announced attendance for that doubleheader was more than 54,000, setting a record for the sport in the building.

That mark was shattered less than a year later when Mexico returned to play a pre-World Cup warm-up against Nigeria, when more than 68,000 attended.

Hosting another Gold Cup is another step in the city’s development as a hotbed for international and domestic soccer. In addition to last year’s Gold Cup and the game against Nigeria, Mexico has also played games against Venezuela and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Dome. Renowned Club teams A.C. Milan, Manchester City and Club America have played in the Dome. The U.S. women’s national team has competed in the Dome.

Additionally, under the ownership of Arthur Blank, an MLS team was awarded in April and will begin play in the new Falcons stadium downtown in 2017.

A portion of the groups for next year’s Gold Cup have been decided: the U.S. will lead Group A, Costa Rica will lead Group B and Mexico will lead Group C.

While Mexico is a frequent visitor to Atlanta, the U.S. team hasn’t played in metro Atlanta since 1977, when it defeated China 1-0 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

“To be chosen as a host city for the knockout stage of such a prestigious tournament speaks to the popularity of the sport of soccer in Atlanta,” MLS Atlanta President Darren Eales said in a statement provided to the media. “The Gold Cup will provide a fantastic opportunity to showcase Atlanta as a true soccer city and will give fans the opportunity to experience top level play ahead of MLS Atlanta’s debut in 2017.