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From Site Selection magazine, March 2024

Atlanta Stakes Claim As Soccer City USA

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with seating capacity of 75,000, will host a men’s FIFA World Cup semifinal in July 2026 in Atlanta. MBS has hosted Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer since 2017.
Photo courtesy of MBS


e won’t know who won the 2026 World Cup until all the matches are played two years from now in Canada, Mexico and the United States. But we already know which cities won the headquarters sweepstakes driven by the games: Atlanta and Miami.

The first off-the-field “golazo” came on Sept. 15, 2023, when the U.S. Soccer Federation announced it would move its headquarters and National Training Center to Atlanta. Bolstered by a $50 million donation from Atlanta United FC and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the new base of American soccer will house the operations of USSF and all national teams.

The second scoring strike, more like a “panenka,” occurred Sept. 26 when FIFA, the global governing body for professional soccer, announced it would relocate more than 100 staff personnel from Zurich, Switzerland, to Miami, which garnered global headlines last summer when it persuaded the biggest sports personality on the planet — Lionel Messi — to leave Europe for Inter Miami of Major League Soccer. Not to be outdone, Atlanta United has set multiple MLS attendance records while dominating opponents at Mercedes-Benz Stadium since 2017. Atlanta has won MLS Cup, U.S. Open Cup and Campeones Cup in its six-year history while routinely drawing 70,000-plus fans to matches.

The importance of landing the USSF headquarters in Atlanta cannot be overstated. This is not just a move made for the 2026 World Cup; it is an opportunity to position Atlanta and the U.S. national teams for global ascendance.

‘For Sale’ Sign Signaled Change

USSF leaders conducted a nationwide search, led by Deloitte consultants, before picking the capital city of Georgia. “This win for the state was a team effort in the making,” says Kristi Brigman, deputy commissioner of global commerce for the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD). “When the U.S. Soccer Federation’s site selection consultants brought GDEcD onboard last year, we went to work with our partners at Metro Atlanta Chamber [MAC] and Georgia Power to help build a strong business argument for ‘Why Georgia?’ ”

Brigman adds that “at the same time, other organizations around metro Atlanta, including MAC’s Atlanta Sports Council, were already building additional connections ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2026. The energy, excitement and economic vitality our corporate, public and philanthropic communities created helped push Georgia to the top — and to victory.”

Domestic and international flight connections at the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International, were pivotal factors in Atlanta’s favor, as was the considerable corporate support for soccer from Arthur Blank, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot and Delta Airlines.

All U.S. Soccer had to do was say goodbye to Chicago, which in essence it had already done when it put a “For Sale” sign up on the old mansions that had housed its offices since 1991. Located in Chicago’s Prairie Avenue Historical District, the two 19th-century homes can be bought for $4.2 million.

USSF’s new digs will cost considerably more. Deloitte and USSF CEO and Secretary General J.T. Batson picked a final site in metro Atlanta on Dec. 7. 

Move Over, Captain America

The new National Training Center for U.S. Soccer will be built in Trilith in Fayette County and will cover more than 200 acres. It is estimated that the NTC will create more than 400 new jobs and represent a capital investment of more than $200 million.

Proximity to the Atlanta airport (less than 12 miles away) and to downtown Atlanta was pivotal in USSF selecting this location over eight other sites around the metro area. All 27 national teams will train at the new complex, which MLS Commissioner Don Garber calls “one of the most important projects in the history of soccer in America.”

U.S. Soccer currently maintains a nine-training-field complex that it leases from the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS in Carson, California. That site covers 125 acres. The Georgia site could nearly double that.

The soccer complex will be in the same city that is home to Trilith Studios, a major film and television production studio in Fayette County. Home to blockbuster films and TV shows in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Trilith Studious was established in 2014 as one of the largest production facilities in Georgia.


“This win for the state was a team effort in the making. When the U.S. Soccer Federation’s site selection consultants brought GDEcD onboard last year, we went to work with our partners at Metro Atlanta Chamber [MAC] and Georgia Power to help build a strong business argument for ‘Why Georgia?’ ” 

— Kristi Brigman, Deputy Commissioner of Global Commerce, Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD)


Initial plans for the National Training Center for U.S. Soccer include more than a dozen soccer fields and more than 100,000 sq. ft. of indoor courts. The NTC will also include more than 200,000 sq. ft. of training facilities, locker rooms, and headquarters space for all employees of U.S. Soccer and its 27 official national teams. 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp welcomed U.S. Soccer to his state by saying: “U.S. Soccer joins a long and proud tradition of sports in the Peach State, including our fast-growing soccer fanbase. This project will solidify Georgia’s position at the forefront of this increasingly popular sport, from the success of our own Atlanta United team to the FIFA World Cup 2026 events in a few short years.”

USSF’s Batson led the search for the site with counsel from Deloitte, which helped narrow the location to metro Atlanta, while Vice Chairman of AMBSE Steve Cannon helped make connections within Atlanta. USSF also worked closely with stakeholders across Atlanta and Georgia to gather information on sites before zeroing in on Trilith in Fayetteville, a rapidly growing area in southwest metro Atlanta.

The icing on the cake came a few weeks later, on February 4, when FIFA announced that Atlanta will host eight matches of the 2026 World Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, including a semifinal. It is estimated that the economic impact of each World Cup match is equivalent to hosting a Super Bowl. More than 1.5 billion people watched the 2022 World Cup Final.

According to the 2026 World Cup schedule, the first match of the men’s tournament will be played on June 11, 2026, in Mexico City, and the final is set for July 19 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The timeline for the new USSF complex in Atlanta calls for it to be completed in time for the U.S. Men’s National Team to conduct its pre-World Cup training at the site in early 2026 and play a few tune-up matches there. 

Ron Starner
Executive Vice President of Conway, Inc.

Ron Starner

Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.


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