Atlanta listed among potential hosts of Rugby World Cup

Japan's Michael Leitch is tackled by South Africa's Steven Kitshoff during a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match at Tokyo Stadium between Japan and South Africa on Oct. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

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Japan's Michael Leitch is tackled by South Africa's Steven Kitshoff during a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match at Tokyo Stadium between Japan and South Africa on Oct. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

The Rugby World Cup is coming to the United States for the first time, and Atlanta is on a lengthy list of cities expected to bid to host games.

The World Rugby Council, the sport’s global governing body, voted Thursday to hold its 2031 men’s World Cup and 2033 women’s World Cup in the U.S. The organization listed 25 U.S cities, including Atlanta, that “will continue to pursue the opportunity to host matches in either or both Rugby World Cup tournaments.”

World Rugby hasn’t said how many cities will host matches, but envisions the action being spread across stadiums from coast to coast – mostly NFL and MLS venues, such as Mercedes-Benz Stadium – and sees the event as a pivotal opportunity to grow the sport in this country.

In addition to Atlanta, other cities interested in hosting, according to USA Rugby, are: Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Birmingham, Ala.; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Glendale, Ariz.; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Miami; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans; New York; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; San Diego; San Francisco; Seattle; and Washington.

“We look forward to partnering with World Rugby in the years ahead to ensure that our preparations for these tournaments and the events themselves are a paradigm-shifting catalyst for the growth of our sport,” USA Rugby CEO Ross Young said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s bid to host games in another World Cup – soccer’s in 2026 – continues. FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, announced four years ago that the event will be played in the United States, Canada and Mexico, but still hasn’t announced the host cities.

In the latest delay, FIFA has pushed back site selection from mid-May until at least mid-June, The Associated Press recently reported. Ten or 11 U.S. host cities are expected to be chosen for the men’s soccer event, and Atlanta is among 16 bidders for those spots. Games would be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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