ATLANTA — The World Cup is coming to North America – and a key part of it perhaps to Atlanta – in 2026.
Member nations of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, voted Wednesday in Moscow to bring the 2026 World Cup to the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The three nations combined on a joint bid to host the tournament – one of the world’s largest sporting events -- and defeated a competing bid from Morocco, 134 votes to 65 votes.
The North American bid proposed a prominent role for Atlanta, suggesting that the two semifinal matches could be played at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. It also suggests that either Atlanta or Dallas could host the international broadcast center for the 2026 event.
While those proposals are subject to further negotiation and other U.S. cities could emerge as semifinal options -- a FIFA evaluation report also mentioned Boston and Washington as possibilities -- Atlanta’s chances appear strong. The North American bid cited “geographic location, travel distances and stadium capacity” as reasons for pitching Atlanta and Dallas as the semifinal sites.
Atlanta also could host some earlier-round matches.
The U.S./Canada/Mexico bid names 23 cities in the three nations as candidates to host World Cup matches eight years from now and says the number will be whittled down to 16 “official host cities” by June 2021, including at least 10 in the U.S.
“The (joint) bid offers FIFA 23 qualified stadiums – more than the required number -- and all are ready to compete to offer the best possible experience for players and officials, fans, partners, media, and other stakeholders, giving FIFA maximum flexibility and leverage,” the bid book states. “The (joint) bid will work with FIFA to select the final 16 stadiums for the competition.”
A FIFA committee made a one-day visit to Atlanta in April and gave Mercedes-Benz Stadium high marks.
For the 2026 World Cup, the number of participating teams will increase from 32 to 48 and the number of matches from 64 to 80. Ten matches will be played in Canada, 10 in Mexico and 60 in the U.S. The North American bid proposes MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., as the site of the final match, while a FIFA report also listed Los Angeles and Dallas as options for the final.
Key advantages of the North American bid were its lofty projection that the tournament will generate $14 billion in revenue and the fact that all of the proposed stadiums are already built.
The 2026 event will mark the World Cup’s first time in the U.S. since 1994.
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