State Sports

Atlanta is one of 16 cities that will host 2026 World Cup matches, Nashville misses out

(The Center Square) — The city of Nashville will not be hosting a World Cup as Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Kansas City were named World Cup host cities for the Central Region of matchups for the 2026 tournament.

In 2026, the tournament field will expand from 32 to 48 teams, allowing for more host cities as FIFA names 16 cities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico that will host matches.

Vancouver, Seattle, Guadalajara, San Francisco and Los Angeles make up the West region. Monterrey and Mexico City join the four U.S. hosts in the Central Region while Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and New York/New Jersey make up the East.

Heading into the city announcements, several cities touted the potential economic impact of hosting matches, including a $700 million estimate from Nashville’s Convention and Visitors Corp. that sports economists debunked.

In Nashville, there was uncertainty whether Nissan Stadium or a proposed new $2.2 billion domed Titans stadium planned to open in 2026 would host matches.

Atlanta Sports Commission President Dan Corso told reporters that the event was expected to bring $400 million in economic impact to Atlanta.

Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a soccer fan who attended matches during the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. and wrote a study on the economic impact in the host cities.

He said that most of the U.S. host cities are likely to get two or three opening round matches, a round of 32 match and maybe a Round of 16 or quarterfinal.

Those sites, such as Atlanta, will mainly have fans from within the state and region similar to an Atlanta Falcons or Atlanta Braves or Atlanta United game.

“With lots of the games, the vast majority of the people going to a game down at Mercedes-Benz Stadium are going to be local people from the Atlanta local Georgia area,” Matheson explained. “We have people spending money at the stadium rather than elsewhere in the local Georgia economy. … it simply changes the location where money is spent.”

Only a select few teams will travel well internationally for the matches and that contingent will be larger as the tournament goes on, with Matheson believing that larger cities such as New York and Los Angeles have better shots at hosting the final and semifinal matches.

Match assignments will be announced by FIFA later.

In the 2010 World Cup, South Africa drew between 80,000 to 200,000 total international visitors while, in 2014, Brazil hosted one million visitors, with Matheson saying many were from a nearby Argentina team that fell 1-0 to Germany in the final.

“Where the World Cup can bring you money is when it brings in people who wouldn’t otherwise come to the area,” Matheson said. “By the time you get to the later rounds, you are much more likely to have people travel.”

By Jon Styf | The Center Square

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