Will Soccer Kick The Cobb County Sports Economy Into A Higher Gear? (Part 1)

by John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

On February 6, the Atlanta area learned they would host the equivalent of eight College Football National Championship Games between June 15 to July 15, 2026. That seems too much, even for the Big A to manage it all, so this represents a good chance for Cobb County to play a role in this historic occasion on the world stage. But there’s a right way for Cobb County to cash in, and mistakes to avoid so it doesn’t turn into an “own goal,” as it did for an Atlanta area location after the 1996 Olympics.

“Atlantans learned the city will have the second most World Cup matches in North America with eight — only trailing Dallas,” writes the Mercedes Benz Stadium.  “Soccer fans in The A can expect five group-stage matches. However, The United States Men’s National Team will not play in a group stage match in the city as those will take place in Los Angeles and Seattle. But, if the USMNT advances out of the group stage and into the knockout rounds, fans could see them here.”

Set your calendars for June 15, 18, 21 24 and 27 for the group stage, and July 1, 7 and 15 for the playoffs, with the last date being a semifinal match.

This is a huge coup for the Atlanta region, as the host cities range from the USA, Canada and Mexico. Only Dallas will host more games, even as the final match will take place at MetLife Stadium at East Rutherford, New Jersey, in the shadow of New York City.

There’s a big cash infusion poised for the Atlanta area. “According to data collected by AMB Sports and Entertainment, it’s estimated the World Cup will generate $415 million in revenue for Atlanta,” notes the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, called “The Atlanta Stadium” by the World Cup.

As Atlanta United points out, this is hardly an accident of fortune for the area for the Atlanta Metro area. “At the grassroots level, soccer continued to become a bigger factor, thriving inside and outside the perimeter. Eventually, the boom of youth soccer caught the attention of Arthur Blank, who had a vision for a new stadium, a stadium that would host major events like the Super Bowl, a FIFA World Cup and a new professional Major League Soccer team.”

Many may not remember this, but Atlanta was completely shut out last time when the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup. The closest game played to the Peach State was in Orlando, Florida. And of course there was no Atlanta United at the time. But a lot has changed over the last few decades when it comes to soccer in Georgia.

What’s important to note is that the 1994 games created a surplus of $50 million for U.S. Soccer, nearly doubled what was projected, according to FIFA statistics. But that doesn’t mean that these games in the Atlanta area in general, and even Cobb County, will turn a similar surplus. Several other world cities, and even other Atlanta area venues thought they would cash in when winning the Olympics, FIFA’s World Cup, or other international games, only to come up short. In my next column, I explore how Cobb County can maximize its margin via expansion of existing resources, instead of constructing costly new ones with little indication that such hype will remain permanent.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.