ATLANTA (AP) — After being slowed by the pandemic, the race amongst 17 U.S. cities to land a coveted spot internet hosting the 2026 World Cup is again on.
Two FIFA inspectors have been in Atlanta Friday to get a take a look at 72,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium, residence of a record-setting Main League Soccer workforce and centerpiece of town’s bid.
FIFA vice chairman Victor Montagliani, who additionally leads regional governing physique CONCACAF, joked that Atlanta is now “a soccer metropolis, as in the actual soccer that’s performed globally.”
Atlanta is relying on its retractable-roof stadium, which opened in 2017, and historical past of staging all the pieces from the Summer time Olympics to the Tremendous Bowl to assist it land what’s arguably the most important worldwide spectacle of all of them.
Montagliani and Colin Smith, FIFA’s chief match and occasions officer, already visited Boston and Nashville. Over the subsequent week, they’re planning stops in Orlando, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York Metropolis, Philadelphia and Miami.
Within the subsequent two months, FIFA will compete its web site visits to the remaining U.S. finalists: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Kansas Metropolis, Houston, Dallas and Cincinnati.
The USA received internet hosting rights together with Mexico and Canada in what would be the first World Cup staged in three nations. The positioning visits have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing again a ultimate determination on the host cities to early 2022.
There’s not a lot venue suspense within the neighboring international locations.
Mexico put up three cities — Mexico Metropolis, Monterrey and Guadalajara — which are all anticipated to host. Canada had additionally submitted three cities, however Montreal dropped out just lately after the provincial authorities declined to select up the rising prices. That left Toronto and Edmonton as that nation’s websites.
It’s not recognized what number of U.S. cities can be chosen. The overall consensus was 10 earlier than Montreal withdrew, which may create a gap for an eleventh choose.
“There’s by no means a stipulation of precisely what number of we’re going to have in every nation,” Montagliani stated. “On the finish of the day, we’re going to make the perfect determination for the World Cup itself, no matter that quantity could also be.”
Mercedes-Benz Stadium is one a number of U.S. candidates that can require the unreal turf to get replaced with a grass floor at some stage in the World Cup. That received’t be a difficulty, in keeping with Smith.
“There’s loads expertise that exists nowadays,” he stated. “We simply should get it proper.”
Atlanta hopes to learn from the compact footprint round Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In contrast to potential cites reminiscent of Dallas, Washington, Boston and San Francisco, which have suburban stadiums, Mercedes-Benz is simply a few blocks from downtown and a part of a fancy that additionally contains Centennial Olympic Park, State Farm Area and the huge Georgia World Congress Middle.
“It simply creates an environment,” stated Darren Eales, president of MLS membership Atlanta United, who was a part of town’s delegation Friday. ”I feel essentially the most memorable World Cups up to now have been in these cities the place you’ve that stadium downtown.”
Taking a jab at rivals reminiscent of Boston and Dallas, Eales added, “You’re in the midst of nowhere. There’s nothing happening round these websites.”
A fan fest would probably be staged in Centennial Olympic Park, whereas the conference heart — one of many world’s largest — is being pitched because the venue for a world broadcast heart that might serve media from world wide.
One potential stumbling block: a brand new Georgia voting regulation that opponents have decried as overly restrictive and discriminatory towards folks of coloration. In a surprising transfer, Main League Baseball pulled this 12 months’s All-Star Sport out of Atlanta after the measure was accepted.
Like their counterparts on the Worldwide Olympic Committee, FIFA officers have by no means appeared too involved concerning the politics of a number metropolis or nation.
Eales shrugged off the problem with a nervous snort, saying “if FIFA makes that call wanting on the total bundle of what Atlanta brings relative to the opposite cities, I’m fairly hopeful that Atlanta can be chosen.”
Atlanta United has drawn loads of consideration for its record-setting crowds because the workforce joined MLS in 2017.
The membership holds almost each attendance file in MLS, together with season common (53,002) in addition to the quite a few particular person crowds of greater than 70,000. Worldwide friendlies have additionally drawn effectively in Atlanta.
“It’s type of the cherry on prime of the cake,” Eales stated. “That is surely one of many prime cities for soccer in North America.”
Observe Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and his work could be discovered at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry
Extra AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports