If there is one thing to take away from the Atlanta International Soccer Challenge it’s this; if the World Cup comes to the U.S. in 2018 or 2022, Atlanta has to been one of the cities hosting. Over the past year, the Georgia Dome has hosted three soccer games and the combined attendance for the three contests was over 130,000. Sure, there were only 33,000 fans to watch Manchester City and Club America go to a 1-1 tie with City winning via penalty kicks, but the fans were loud and very much into the contest all game long and that is something FIFA will take into account when they make their decision.
In 2009, the Georgia Dome hosted two soccer games. One featured Club America taking on A.C. Milan and the other game was a friendly between Mexico and Venezuela. The two games combined for just under 100,000 tickets sold.
So the question is why did this contest draw fewer fans than the last two? It could be a number of things but I think what hurt the attendance for this game was the fact Manchester United was playing in Houston and fans could have made that trek to see one the most popular sports franchises in the world.
Regardless, the game on Wednesday was as exciting as the previous two Georgia Dome-hosted events when it comes to action, suspense and drama. The game featured some of the world’s best including Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor who scored the first goal of the evening by penalty kick, and Shay Given who came up with some great saves for Manchester, especially when it came to shootouts.
But this game was not about winning or losing, it was about showcasing some of the best soccer in the world to the American public and see how they would react to it. Also, the challenge was about the athletes and coaches playing in a new environment and how their reaction would be afterwards.
“It was a fantastic atmosphere,” said Manchester City head coach Roberto Mancini. “The stadium is incredible. There (were) a lot of people.”
The Georgia Dome usually has field turf as a surface for Falcons games. But for this event, as well as the soccer games last year, real grass was brought in and it gave the Dome a new look for the time being.
There is no soccer event on the Dome’s slate in the near future as of right now, but do not be surprised if there is another big matchup at this time next year. One team that could be on the radar is Manchester United which is a team who can sell a lot of tickets no matter where they play. Other teams that could be featured are Real Madrid, Liverpool or Chelsea. No matter if they have another game or who they bring in to play another friendly, the Georgia Dome should, and will be one of the host cities for the World Cup whenever it comes back to the United States.