World Cup 2026: Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium named as a host site

Four years from now, Atlanta will be one of several cities at the center of attention for soccer fans across the globe. Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium was picked to be one of several venues set to host matches during the FIFA World Cup in 2026. 

North America won a bid to host the pinnacle of international soccer in 2018. There will be matches in stadiums in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

There were 23 venues bidding to host soccer matches at the 2026 World Cup. Thursday evening, FIFA announced its final decision.

Here is a look at all the host cities:

Western host cities: Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Guadalajara

Central host cities: Kansas City, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Monterrey, Mexico City

Eastern host cities: Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, New York

Which World Cup matches will be hosted in Atlanta?

It was not immediately clear where the World Cup would open, what rounds would be played at what venues, or where knockout rounds and the semifinals would be played. Many experts speculate Atlanta is in the running for at least one knockout round or possibly a semifinal match. 

Both Atlanta and Dallas had been floated as host cities for the semifinals. They also have been suggested to the location fo the international broadcast center.

What is known is Atlanta will likely host five to six games over a 30-day span. An announcement on where the matches will be held likely will not come until early 2023.

What is the expected economic impact of the World Cup in Atlanta?

Economic benefit doesn't come without investment.

The big difference between a World Cup match and an Atlanta United match is the turf. Gone will be the fake stuff and in will be real grass for the duration of the 2026 matches. Installation is planned to be complete in February 2026 with the stadium starting the conversion to handle real turf over the next two years. That will go back to turf for the Falcons and Atlanta United after that.

That is a small price to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in expected revenue. Some experts equate a single World Cup match to one Super Bowl game. The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce estimated Super Bowl LIII has an economic impact between $350 to $400 million. 

Furthermore, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said The Gulch and Centennial Olympic Park areas will look different than they do now. 

"Some of those areas that are gaps in infrastructure, you're going to buildings and connectivity," Dickens said.

Gov. Brian Kemp said the state's focus will be on security.

A study by the Boston Consulting Group during the initial bid process forecasted the matches could contribute $5 billion in new economic activity with $415 million alone for the city of Atlanta.

Many are suggesting this is an impact both in size, shape, and money not seen since the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Atlanta has experience hosting large sporting events since 1996 including Super Bowl LIII, the College Football Playoff National Championship and World Series games. 

The College Football Championship game will return to Atlanta in 2025. The last time it was here was the same year that FIFA officials first toured Atlanta.

What did FIFA see in Atlanta when picking Atlanta to host World Cup?

Last September, FIFA toured Atlanta's facilities. FIFA considered the city's facilities, airport and hospitality accommodations Downtown compared to the 22 other host sites. Hoping to make the city more attractive, state lawmakers expanded a tax break for major sports events to include the World Cup. 

Atlanta stands out as one of three stadiums that host both NFL games and MLS matches. 

Atlanta reacts to hosting World Cup 2026

Georgia and Atlanta leaders were quick to react to the news that Atlanta will be one fo the host cities.

"We have the pleasure of celebrating Atlanta’s selection as a host city of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, because of our strong, bipartisan public-private partnerships and many who have been working for years to put Georgia on the map since we hosted the 1996 Olympics," said Kemp. "This premiere event will have a positive impact on so many hardworking Georgians. Hotels will fill with guests from around the world; restaurants will provide visitors a taste of the South they will not soon forget; attractions across Georgia will welcome those seeking to experience all the Peach State has to offer; and in each interaction, people will see Georgia’s Southern hospitality on full display. The world will be watching as we meet this moment, and we’re proud of all the entities who worked so hard to get us to this point."

"Atlanta is a soccer town, and we’re excited to bring the game’s best athletes to the world’s best city," said Dickens. "Atlanta has already been home to the Super Bowl and the Olympics, and through our strong collaboration with the State and our business community, we will welcome folks from all over the world to fill every seat in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2026."

"Atlanta certainly has experience hosting top-tier sporting events in our city, including three Super Bowls and the Olympics, so it’s very exciting to add this incredible event to that rich history. Our city has the venues and the fan base for a truly special atmosphere. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our city to the world once again," a statement attributed to the Atlanta City Council read.

"The World Cup is one of the most-watched events across the world, and Atlanta has shown that we’re a passionate soccer city with all the success of Atlanta United. As a season ticket holder for the United and an avid fan, this is a special moment. I’m thrilled for our city to host the best players in the world and to see Atlanta’s role as a truly international city reinforced in this way," said Council President Doug Shipman

"This is an incredible opportunity for the city of Atlanta to continue to show the world what we have to offer," said Arthur M. Blank, Owner and Chairman of The Blank Family of Businesses, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium. "Our stadium was built to host world-class events, and we would be honored to continue that tradition in 2026 with the World Cup," Blank continued. "I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Atlanta World Cup Bid Committee, especially the Atlanta Sports Council, Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and our AMBSE leadership team, for their diligent work over the past few years that has led us to today’s announcement.  There is still more work to be done, and I look forward to working with our public and private partners, FIFA and our local community to bring these spectacular global games to Atlanta."

"We are thrilled to bring the world’s biggest sporting event to Atlanta," said Dan Corso, Atlanta Sports Council president.  "Combining the assets of the state’s best public organizations and private companies has been a recipe for success here in Atlanta.  We truly believe our city is the country’s premier location to hold a major sporting event and look forward to working with FIFA to create a remarkable experience for all involved."

The FIFA World Cup trophy seen on display at the Bangladesh Army stadium. The FIFA World Cup trophy tour in Bangladesh runs from 08 till 09 June 2022. (Photo by Sazzad Hossain/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Cities picked to host the World Cup 2026


AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, is the largest venue in the NFL. The stadium, which opened in 2009, has a retractable roof and an artificial surface. Its capacity is about 93,000, but the stadium set an attendance record of more than 105,000 for an NFL game the year it opened. It also hosted the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. The nearby city of Dallas hosted games at the 1994 World Cup at the Cotton Bowl.


Mercedes-Benz Stadium is one of three NFL-MLS venues. The Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United both play home matches at the stadium, which opened in 2017 and seats about 75,000. The stadium has a retractable roof and an artificial surface, and it also hosted college basketball’s Final Four in 2020.


Just across the Hudson River from New York, MetLife Stadium opened in 2010 as a replacement for Giants Stadium. Both the New York Jets and New York Giants play NFL games at the venue, which has a seating capacity of about 87,000 and has an artificial surface. The previous stadium hosted several matches at the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women’s World Cup.


The Boston suburb of Foxborough hosted games at the 1994 World Cup, but Gillette Stadium is a different venue, built near the old Foxboro Stadium. The new venue opened in 2002 and has a seating capacity of about 70,000. The stadium, which has an artificial surface, hosts home games in football for the New England Patriots and in soccer for the New England Revolution. The town is about 30 miles south of Boston and 21 miles north of Providence, Rhode Island.


Used mostly for soccer, the Estadio Akron opened in 2010 and hosted the Copa Libertadores finals that year and the opening ceremony of the Pan American Games in 2011. Mexican soccer club Chivas plays its home matches at the venue, which has a capacity of about 48,000 and a grass surface. The city hosted matches at both the 1970 and 1986 World Cups, but at a different stadium.


NRG Stadium hosts football, soccer and even some rodeo. The stadium, which opened in 2002, is the home of the Houston Texans and has staged World Cup qualifying matches for the United States. But it also serves as a home venue for some Mexican national team friendlies. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo also is held annually at the stadium, which has a seating capacity of about 72,000 and an artificial surface. Its retractable roof and air conditioning will be important given the area’s summer heat and humidity.


The city of Los Angeles has two candidates for the World Cup and one of them is the newest on the list, SoFi Stadium. Built on the site of the Hollywood Race Track and opened in 2020, the stadium hosts both the Los Angeles Ram and the Los Angeles Chargers of the NFL. It has a seating capacity of about 70,000, an artificial surface and a fixed roof.


Arrowhead Stadium is the home of the Kansas City Chiefs. The stadium opened in 1972 and has been renovated several times, last in 2010. The seating capacity is about 76,000, making it the sixth-largest NFL stadium. The stadium is famous for its noise records, with opposing teams sometimes struggling to communicate because of the racket. It has a grass surface.


Estadio Azteca became the first stadium to host two World Cup finals when Argentina beat West Germany 3-2 in the 1986 title match. It previously hosted the final for the 1970 tournament, when Brazil defeated Italy 4-1 — with Pelé scoring the first goal. Perhaps even more famous was the 1986 quarterfinal match at the stadium between Argentina and England, when Diego Maradona scored a goal by punching the ball into the net. The stadium opened in 1966 and has a capacity of about 87,000 with a grass surface. The venue’s record attendance for soccer, however, is said to be 119,853.


Located in suburban Miami, Hard Rock Stadium hosts both NFL and college football games. The Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami both play at the venue, which has a seating capacity of about 67,000, a grass surface and a roof that covers spectators but is open over the field. The stadium opened in 1987 and also hosts tennis tournaments.


One of the newer stadiums in contention, Estadio BBVA opened in 2015 and has a grass surface. Mexican club Monterrey plays it home matches at the stadium. Seating capacity is about 53,000. Three matches at the 1986 World Cup were held in Monterrey, but at Estadio Tecnológico.


The second candidate in Los Angeles is among the most famous stadiums in the world. The Rose Bowl hosted the 1994 World Cup final when Brazil beat Italy on penalties. Perhaps even more famous was the final of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, when Brandi Chastain scored the winning penalty kick for the United States against China and then took off her shirt in celebration. The stadium, which has a capacity of about 88,000 and a grass surface, has hosted many other events since opening in 1922, including cycling at the 1932 Olympics.


Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003, and its first event was a soccer match between Manchester United and Barcelona. The stadium serves as the home venue for the Philadelphia Eagles and Temple University. The 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup final was played at the stadium, with Mexico beating Jamaica 3-1. The stadium seats nearly 70,000 spectators and has an artificial surface.


Located about 40 miles south of San Francisco, Levi’s Stadium opened in 2014 and has hosted several major football games since, including the Super Bowl in 2016. It serves as the home stadium of the San Francisco 49ers. The stadium has a capacity of about 71,000 and a grass surface.


Lumen Field is the home stadium of two professional soccer teams and the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL. The stadium, which opened in 2002 and has a capacity of about 69,000, hosts the Seattle Sounders of MLS and the OL Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network records shaking in the stadium caused by the crowd. The stadium has an artificial surface.


BMO Field is the home of the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL and Toronto FC of MLS. Originally constructed as a soccer venue, it has hosted several international events since opening in 2007, including under-20 World Cup games for both men and women and rugby matches. In 2010, it became the first venue outside the United States to host the MLS Cup. The stadium also hosted matches for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup. It has a capacity of about 28,000 and a hybrid surface, and the bid envisions an expansion to about 45,000.


Opened in 1983, BC Place has served as the home of the BC Lions of the CFL since its inauguration. The stadium also hosts home games for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS. The stadium has a capacity of about 54,000 and was last renovated in 2011. It has an artificial surface.

FOX 13 Seattle and the Associated Press contributed to this report.