In the midst of World Cup frenzy 2018, let’s look ahead eight years to the 2026 global soccer tourney, for which Atlanta is contending with 22 other cities in Mexico, the U.S., and Canada for the right to host matches.
The 2026 tourney is expected to drum up $14 billion in revenue—or about 38 times what the most recent Super Bowl generated for Minneapolis. It’s a big deal.
Given the globally watched rise of the Atlanta United FC juggernaut, and the ATL’s increasingly international population, it comes as something of a confounding surprise that a Trulia analysis released today slots Atlanta as middle-of-the-pack amid cities vying for 2026 matches.
In a report titled, “Football Fever: A Look at the Most Soccer-Crazed Cities in America,” Trulia’s brainiacs weighed several pertinent factors among the country’s 17 cities in the running to host mega matches in eight years.
Soccer-madness was determined, in part, by whether cities count a top-division Major League Soccer or National Women’s Soccer League team, “the intensity of existing professional and recreational soccer clubs,” the prevalence of retailers selling sporting goods, and—this being Trulia—the appreciation of home values since 2010’s international soccer showdown.
Being a “soccer city on the rise” and “home to one of the newest teams in the MLS,” Atlanta landed at No. 6 on Trulia’s ranking.
Apparently, the ATL is no Seattle (No. 1), which holds an MLS Cup (2016) and counts a NWSL team and the country’s most prevalent soccer clubs. Also, it’s where MLS “routinely sells out and its painted, chanting fans could give football-loving Brits or Brazilians a run for their money,” the study summarizes.
But was the power of the MLS-leading Five Strips underestimated?
Consider that, in its debut season last year, Atlanta United averaged 48,200 people per match—the highest in MLS history.
In October, the team broke its own record when nearly 72,000 fans attended a match with Toronto FC—also the most in MLS history—en route to smashing records for the highest total regular season attendance (886,625 tickets), per the team.
The single-match record fell again in March (72,035 tickets sold) for a United contest at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with D.C. United.
As The Irish Times recently noted: “A team in the MLS attracting bigger crowds than a Premier League side was once unthinkable, but Atlanta United FC have been exceeding expectations since they made their MLS debut last year.”
Hopefully FIFA officials take attendance tallies more seriously.