Atlanta‘s hopes of hosting World Cup soccer matches were dashed as the nation of Qatar was chosen over the U.S. on Dec. 2 to host the game’s largest tournament in 2022.
Atlanta was one of 18 cities included in the U.S. bid.
FIFA, the international soccer federation that organizes the World Cup, also announced that it had selected Russia to host the 2018 Cup. The U.S. had dropped out of the running for 2018 to focus on 2022, where it was pitted against Qatar, Australia and a combined team from Japan and South Korea.
For soccer advocates in Atlanta, it was a bitter end to a two-year bid process that helped raise the profile of the sport in the city.
“In sports, you’ve got to learn how to lose just like you have to learn how to win,” said Scott Moran, an international attorney with Berman Fink Van Horn P.C. who served as general counsel and adviser to the Atlanta bid committee.
Mr. Moran, who has 15 years of experience working with U.S. and international soccer clubs, headed to STATS bar on Marietta Street to watch as the selections were announced from Zurich, Switzerland, at 10 a.m. Thursday.
He wasn’t surprised when Qatar, a favorite among oddsmakers in Las Vegas, was named, but Mr. Moran said he was so disappointed that he didn’t even notice how the other 200 or so people at STATS reacted to the bad news.
“As it said ‘Qatar’ I kind of bent over and put my face in my hands for a moment, so I assume there was a massive moan” from the crowd, he told GlobalAtlanta.
Though the World Cup would’ve been the “crown jewel” for Atlanta’s soccer aspirations, the city has still come a long way as a soccer town, and not just because of the bid, Mr. Moran said.
After moving down to a lower level for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the Atlanta Silverbacks will return to the North American Soccer League, a second-tier league in the U.S. behind Major League Soccer. Over the last two years, the Georgia Dome has hosted three international exhibition games averaging about 50,000 attendees apiece. Participation in Georgia’s youth and adult soccer leagues also continues to grow, Mr. Moran said.
“At the end of the day, Atlanta comes out way ahead of where it was two years ago,” he said, though he noted that without the World Cup matches, the city missed out on a projected economic impact of $500 million.
Click here to see GlobalAtlanta’s special report on Atlanta’s soccer ambitions and how local companies and residents caught futbol fever during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.