2026 FIFA World Cup likely to be bigger in Atlanta than anticipated – The Business Journals

A change to the 2026 FIFA World Cup format will provide an even bigger than expected boon to Downtown Atlanta — a district in desperate need of good news.
When the Atlanta Sports Council learned last June that Atlanta would be a host city for the tournament, the organization was told the city could land between four and six matches. Each could have an economic impact roughly equivalent to an NFL Super Bowl.
That was before FIFA altered plans in March, announcing it would move from 16 groups of three to 12 groups of four. This increases the number of matches from last year’s 64 to 104.
This is big win for Atlanta, one of of 11 U.S. cities that will host multiple matches. Sports Council President Dan Corso told Atlanta Business Chronicle that officials now expect to add at least one more game to the docket.
“It’s a mathematical equation,” he said. “Maybe one or two more per city. There’s been no information yet to the host cities. Either way, it’s more than one [total], which is a good thing.”
Corso said he expects FIFA to release the final schedule, and whether Atlanta won its bid to host a semifinal match, sometime before 2024.
The race to prepare for the World Cup is much-needed fuel for Downtown, which faces significant hurdles. Global accounting firm KPMG LLP isDeloitte and CNN already announced they are relocating. Peachtree Center has gone through a foreclosure sale.
The 2026 deadline is also spurring the $5 billion Centennial Yards project. Centennial Yards Co., the local development arm of CIM Group, wants to create a Downtown sporting and entertainment district that includes music venues, restaurants and shops. MARTA has also made redesigning the nearby Five Points train station a priority project. Newport RE LP, a German real estate firm, also has plans for hundreds of apartment units.
For Downtown, more residential units is a key to sustained, long-term growth, said Bob Voyles, a principal and founder of real estate firm Seven Oaks Co. LLC.
“People think we’re gonna have this one big splash and everything is gonna change, but organic change is what is better long-term,” he told the Chronicle. “You have to have civic leadership, political leadership and business leadership all come together and focus on that goal.”
The tournament also furthers Atlanta’s standing as a live-sports epicenter and as a magnet for mega-sports events, such as Super Bowl LIII and the NCAA Men’s Final Four. Mercedes-Benz Stadium was tapped last year to host the College 2025 College Football National Championship.
It’s safe to assume that existing infrastructure used during the 2019 Super Bowl will be used again, Corso said. New additions in Downtown’s Centennial Yards, as well as the 1,000-room Georgia World Congress-connected Hilton Signia, will also play a key part, he added.
They will also look for opportunities in the broader metro area and throughout the state.
“If new things come on line between now and 2026, and if FIFA has interest in those things that are coming on line, we would certainly be interested,” Corso said.
Join us for conversations with business leaders across a wide breadth of Atlanta’s sports community. Enjoy exclusive access to Mercedes-Benz Stadium and stay to cheer on the Atlanta United FC as they face the New York City FC.
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