September 16, 2017 Atlanta - Atlanta United fans cheer for their team before an MLS soccer match against the Orlando City SC on Saturday, September 16, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

World Cup committee will tour Atlanta on Wednesday

Members of FIFA will be in Atlanta on Wednesday, touring the city as part of a fact-gathering trip for the 2026 World Cup.

The United States, Mexico and Canada are trying to land the World Cup as a united bid. They are competing against a bid from Morocco. FIFA will announce the winner June 13 in Moscow, one day before this year’s World Cup kicks off in Russia.

Five members of FIFA will tour Mercedes-Benz Stadium as a potential host site for a semifinal game, Atlanta United’s training center as a team(s) host site, and the Georgia World Congress Center as a potential host for an international broadcast center. Atlanta United vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra is a member of the United Bid Committee, which represents the three countries. Media won’t be allowed during Wednesday’s tour.

FIFA members taking the tour are: Tomaž Vesel, chairman of the audit and compliance committee, Mukul Mudgal, chairman of the governance committee; Ilcho Gjorgjioski, member of the organizing committee for competitions; Marco Villiger, FIFA deputy secretary general (Administration); and Zvonimir Boban, FIFA deputy secretary general (Football). Wednesday’s trip will be the first for each to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The inspection team is touring Mexico City on Tuesday. They will fly to Atlanta on Tuesday night and begin the tour Wednesday morning. The group will tour Toronto on Thursday and New York/New Jersey on Friday.

There are 23 cities included in the bid book submitted by the United Bid Committee to FIFA,  which will cut down that list to a maximum of 16. That paring may not happen for years.

The $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened last year. It is the home to Atlanta United in MLS and the Atlanta Falcons in NFL. It can hold approximately 80,000 fans in its soccer configuration. The stadium features state-of-the-art technology throughout, including a 360-degree, 58-foot tall halo board that hangs underneath the retractable roof.

Atlanta United’s training center opened last year on Franklin Gateway in Marietta near the I-75/285 interchange. The $60 million facility was constructed on 33 acres and includes six fields (three grass and three turf), offices, locker rooms, a cafeteria, training center and work spaces.

The Georgia World Congress Center, which is next to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, was included as a potential host for an international broadcast center when the U.S. bid on the 2022 World Cup, which was controversially awarded to Qatar. The GWCC, located downtown near the CNN center, has almost 4 million square feet of exhibition space.

FIFA has a scoring system it uses that gives weight to existing facilities.

The U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994. Mexico hosted in 1970 and 1986. Canada hasn’t hosted the event, which is held every four years. The tournament hosts are typically automatically included in the event. 

The 23 cities are:

Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Edmonton, Guadalajara, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, Monterrey, Montreal, Nashville, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Washington D.C.

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