By Maria Saporta
Atlanta is beginning to prepare its official bid to host the semi-final matches of the 2026 World Cup later this summer, according to Dan Corso, president of the Atlanta Sports Council.
Corso was one of the guests who spoke to the board of the Georgia Department of Economic Development at SunTrust Park on Wednesday afternoon scheduled before a game of the Atlanta Braves.
In the initial North American bid to host 2026 World Cup, Atlanta was proposed to be the site for the semi-final matches with the World Cup Final being held in New York City.
“We are going to pursue the semi-final match in the way it was proposed in the North American bid,” Corso said. “We should feel really good about the opportunity to host the semi-finals.”
Corso, who spoke in a brief interview after his presentation to the economic development board, said his optimism is based on several reasons, most notably the success of Atlanta United and how it has raised soccer’s profile in Georgia and the United States.
Also Mercedes-Benz Stadium also is considered to be a top venue for soccer and the accessibility of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport “make for a great combination,” Corso said. Atlanta and the other competing cities have between June 2019 to June 2020 to prepare their bids.
In response to a question from a Georgia Department of Economic Development board member about whether Atlanta had ever hosted a World Cup match, Corso answered no.
The last time World Cup was held in the United States was in 1994, but Atlanta was not one of the cities selected to host a match.
The United States did bid for the 2022 World Cup, but FIFA – the international soccer federation which puts on the event – awarded the matches to Qatar.
The 2026 bid was a combined North American proposal – including the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Corso said FIFA will select the North American cities hosting the 2026 no earlier than December 2020.
There will be a total of 16 cities selected for the 2026 World Cup, which will be increased to a competition of 48 teams and 80 matches.
Three of the cities will be in Canada, three of the cities will be in Mexico and 10 will be in the United States. A total of 17 U.S. cities are in the running to be one of those 10 cities. That means seven U.S. cities included in the initial bid will not win the opportunity to host a soccer match.