As the MLS All-Star week is underway in Chicago, the league hasn’t announced where the 2018 All-Star game will be held.
There are two logical options: Orlando, which features Orlando City’s beautiful new $155 million soccer-specific stadium, and Atlanta, which, of course, is about to open the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will be the home of Atlanta United and the NFL’s Falcons.
A strong case can be made to give the game to Orlando, which reportedly is more interested in hosting the game in 2019:
- It’s a tourist-mecca.
- The city has a strong interest in the sport with an average attendance of more than 25,000 for Orlando City’s 12 home games this season.
- It has an international resume and will host the U.S. final World Cup qualifying game against Panama on Oct. 6.
But I can make a stronger case that, purely from interest in the sport, Atlanta should host, looking at the same criteria:
- While Atlanta can’t match Orlando City theme park for theme park, it has its share of tourist spots, with quite a few within walking distance of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
- The city seems to be falling in love with the sport with an MLS-best average attendance of more than 46,000 at Atlanta United’s nine home matches. And those games were played at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Five Stripes will play their first game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 10. Though capacity will be capped for 42,500 for most of the home games, the team will open the entire stadium’s capacity of 75,000 for at least two home games this season.
- That interest isn’t new because the team is shiny and playing well. Like Orlando, Atlanta has also hosted numerous international soccer games dating back to 2009. The lowest attended game still had more than 30,000. The highest, the 2015 Gold Cup semifinals, had more than 70,000.
- And, Atlanta United President Darren Eales said in 2016 that he would like to see his team host the All-Star game at some point.
Atlanta can also point to its airport, public transportation, etc. as reasons why hosting the All-Star game should draw a big crowd, which will look good on TV.
An announcement on the host site may not be forthcoming soon. Chicago, which will host Wednesday’s game between the All-Stars and Real Madrid, was announced as this year’s host site in January.