The World's Game In The Heart of the Sun Belt

Atlanta second in World Cup venue poll

While Seattle is the clear fan favorite to play host to World Cup matches — should the event return to America in the next decade or so — a poll on the USA Bid Committee’s Web site reveals that Atlanta is in second place.

Of the top 10 vote-getting cities, only Dallas was a venue for the 1994 World Cup.

Georgia Soccer has raised $75,000 in a show of financial support that is one of many factors taken into consideration by the committee, which is expected this month to pare down its final list of cities to be submitted to FIFA for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

Here’s an argument from an Atlantan who says poor fan support for pro teams should rule Atlanta out as a World Cup host.

I think that rationale is all wet, and here’s why: Atlanta soccer fans haven’t been given much to cheer from a litany of badly-run franchises. I know, because I’ve covered most of them since 1995.

Some, like Johnny Imerman and Vincent Lu, ultimately left the old A-League Ruckus by the side of the road.

The various parties involved in the Silverbacks have been more committed, and have enjoyed some occasional success. But last summer, while more than 50,000 people gathered at the Georgia Dome not once, but twice, to watch soccer played there for the first time, the Silverbacks lay dormant.

The ongoing dispute involving the United Soccer Leagues doesn’t appear to be any closer to a resolution, and there’s the possibility that there won’t be pro men’s soccer in Atlanta again next summer.

I know some loyal Silverbacks fans who have spent a lot of money for tickets, T-shirts, souvenirs and road trips over the years and who ultimately have soured on the idea of ever spending another dime on that team if it is resurrected.

The bottom line is that for most of the last decade and a half — since the last World Cup — there hasn’t been a good enough product on the field that’s been worth anyone’s patronage.

You can’t blame the fans for any of that.

January 5, 2010   3 Comments

Atlanta Cup tied to city’s World Cup bid

What’s billed as one of the largest youth tournaments in the United States gets underway all around the metro area Saturday as the Atlanta Cup swings into action through Labor Day.

Here’s the complete schedule of games, venues, teams and other information. More than 600 youth teams will be in action, as well as a handful of women’s teams in the first year that the Atlanta Cup has been open to adult teams.

In addition to being the biggest fundraiser for Georgia Soccer, the Atlanta Cup is an integral part of Atlanta’s bid for a World Cup venue. One of the factors examined by the U.S. Soccer Federation is community support. Picture 4

Georgia Soccer executive director Rick Skirvin said petitions in support of Atlanta’s bid will be available at the Atlanta Cup venues. Players, parents and fans will be encouraged to make videos, among other things, to show their support. Atlanta is one of 27 remaining cities in the mix for inclusion in the USSF’s bid to play host to the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022.

“These efforts will be going on beyond this weekend,” Skirvin said. “It’s a chance to see how strong the local interest is. What is clear is that Atlanta is capable of handling major sporting events. What is unclear is how big a soccer community we have and how far our reach is.”

Georgia Soccer was involved in promotional efforts for the AC Milan-Club América World Football Challenge match at the Georgia Dome that drew 50,000 spectators in July. Like a June match, also at the Dome, that featured Mexico and Venezuela, spectators came from around the state and the Southeast.

Jürgen Maika of the USA Bid Committee said he got “a very good feel and understanding of the city” when visiting during the World Football Challenge, but spoke in general terms about what prospective bidding cities needed to do to show community support. Atlanta’s experience during the so-called “Summer of Soccer” in North America, he said, was not uncommon.

“What we saw in Atlanta is a clear example of what we have seen around the nation,” he said. “There is a passion for the game, greater than what people might imagine. There’s a sense of soccer being elevated to having a much stronger social consciousness in the States. It gives us a sense of relief that we know how to host large events. Our cities are well-prepared for this.”

Maika said another trip to Atlanta is not scheduled before the bid committee pares down its list of potential venues to 18 cities by the end of the year because visits to other sites still need to be made.

September 4, 2009   No Comments

AC Milan-Club América ticket sales at 26K

More than 26,000 advance tickets have been sold for Wednesday’s friendly match at the Georgia Dome between AC Milan and Club América, a presell figure that compares to last month’s match in Atlanta between Mexico and Venezuela.

At Saturday’s summer meeting of the Georgia State Soccer Association, president Larry Green said drawing a crowd similar to 51,000-plus that turned out for the June 24 match is critical to bolster Atlanta’s forthcoming World Cup bid.

“Please do all you can to support this event,” Green told a gathering of more than 100 member representatives at a suburban Atlanta hotel. “It’s really important to hit the 50,000 mark. We think the U.S. chances of getting a bid are good, and that Atlanta has a story to tell.”

Atlanta is one of 37 cities vying to be included in the U.S. Soccer Federation’s bid for the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022. The deadline for U.S. venue bids is July 29, and the USSF will narrow down the final field to around a dozen by next May. FIFA will select the host nations for both of the following World Cup cycles in December 2010.

The GSSA has been an active partner with the Atlanta Sports Council in promoting Wednesday’s game in the World Football Challenge, which involves a number of leading European and Mexican club team playing in several U.S. cities. Next Friday’s match between AC Milan and Chelsea in Baltimore, which also is bidding for a World Cup venue, has been sold out.

The GSSA is extending through Monday a discount group ticket plan aimed at organizations, especially youth associations.

The Mexico-Venezuela match was the first soccer match held at the Georgia Dome and was organized by Soccer United Marketing, which puts on an annual summer American tour of the Mexican national team, among other events.

Presale ticket figures released a few days before the game were around 30,000, but walk-up sales were heavy as a largely Mexican-American fan base from around the Southeast came to see El Tricolor play in Atlanta for the first time.

“Some people thought that game might have given the city a black eye because there weren’t local groups involved,” Green said. “But it got more than 51,000 without local organization or publicity.

“There’s no bigger event that we could aspire to be a part of,” Green said, referring to the possibility of Atlanta playing host to World Cup matches.

July 18, 2009   No Comments

Youth bylaw proposals top GSSA meeting agenda

The Georgia State Soccer Association’s semi-annual general meeting on Saturday will include updates on the Atlanta Beat, among other items, but the organization saw the need to include details of one agenda item in particular.

Those would be proposed changes to youth rules and regulations. They address the usual hot-button topics: Player transfers, recruiting and tryouts and disciplinary matters involving players, coaches and parents.

Here are more details on those propsals and the rest of the meeting, which takes place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Atlanta Northwest.

July 16, 2009   No Comments

Deadline nears for AC Milan-Club América discount tickets

Discounted tickets for next Wednesday’s Georgia Dome friendly between AC Milan and Club América will be available only through today on the Georgia State Soccer Association Web site.

The tickets are priced from $23.75 to $118.75 per person, an average of a 5 percent savings. Each discounted group ticket comes with free admission to practice sessions the day before the game.

Here’s more information on ordering tickets.

AC Milan’s World Football Challenge match scheduled for two days later, on Friday, July 24 against Chelsea in Baltimore, has already been sold out.

July 14, 2009   5 Comments