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  • Writer's pictureDavid Welch

Mercedes-Benz Stadium – SheBelieves Cup




Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43

Mercedes-Benz Stadium 1 AMB Drive

Atlanta, GA 30313



Year Opened: 2017

Capacity: 42,500

 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium – SheBelieves Cup

The SheBelieves movement was launched in the months leading up to the United States Women’s National Team’s (USWNT) 2015 World Cup victory, a team that may have cemented U.S. women’s soccer as the elite team in international play. It was this team that many feel launched the USWNT into prominence as the face of female empowerment in the world of sports. The goal of the SheBelieves movement is to “inspire new generations of young girls and women to be better and strive for better”. It also strives to encourage “young girls to carve their own path” and “empower girls to reach their dreams”.


United States Women’s National Team veteran forward Alex Morgan calls herself fortunate to play in the SheBelieves Cup, where she can empower the next generation. Those comments were also reflected by National Team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw, who recollects being inspired by the US team at the 2020 SheBelieves Cup in her hometown of Frisco, Texas.


Considered an international friendly, the SheBelieves Cup results have the least impact on a country’s FIFA world ranking.

 

Food & Beverage   5

When Mercedes-Benz Stadium initially opened, a priority was put on providing fans with a wide variety of concessions at the lowest prices possible. $20 can get fans all the following: a chicken tender basket with fries, a hot dog, a slice of pizza, pretzel, bag of popcorn, nachos with cheese, and a refillable Coca-Cola product. Wanting a bit more? Getting just a beer and hot dog will only set you back $7.


Mercedes-Benz Stadium also gives fans what seems like an endless selection of high-end food options – there are nearly 35 different concession stands, and more than 25 bars throughout; choices run the gamut from Asian, BBQ, Jamaican, specialty burgers, pizza, and even vegan options, just to name a few.


In addition, fans have the chance to experience several local and regional eateries all in one place – this includes Southern-Korean-Mexican infusion dishes at SO:KO:ME, Williamson Brothers BBQ, burgers from the legendary Holman & Finch and Farm Burger, and Papi’s Cuban Grill.


Mercedes-Benz Stadium also recently partnered with Atlanta brewery Sweet Water Brewing Company, not just to sell Sweet Water products but also to establish two bars around the stadium, one located at the 100 entry level and a second on the upper 300 level. In addition, as part of the branding of the SheBelieves Cup, US Soccer has partnered with Truly hard seltzer for their product to be sold in SheBelieves Cup-designed cans.


It would be difficult to ask for more when it comes to stadium concessions; Mercedes-Benz Stadium delivers on both by providing a wide variety of options at extremely reasonable prices.

 

Atmosphere   4

With the popularity of soccer and the United States Women’s National Team being at an all-time high, the ability to fill a venue the size of Mercedes-Benz Stadium creates an exquisite atmosphere for an international event such as the Shebelieves Cup.


Mercedes-Benz Stadium uses a series of overlapping triangles to create a modern feel, while complementing the eight-panel roof that can rotate open to become an open-air stadium (although the roof typically remains closed). Within the roof structure, the facing of its opening is used for the halo board that serves at the stadium’s scoreboard, and also provides an in-match video feed of the game that highlights fans and add other bits of entertainment around the concourse.


Stadium architect HOK designed the stadium with a 16-story front window that serves as a “window into the city”, putting Atlanta’s skyline prominently on display, and the glass construction does just that – the eastern side of the building serves as the front door to the facility and gives fans amazing views of the area.



As prescribed by international soccer standards, natural grass is installed for the SheBelieves Cup rather than playing on the synthetic sport turf that is standard in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.


The nature and flow of a soccer match doesn’t really lend itself to mid-match entertainment, but during half time and in the time between matches, the in-house DJ plays popular hits as fans, mostly the younger fans in attendance, dance on the “dance cam” of the halo board. The time is also used to feature pieces highlighting the SheBelieves Cup’s mission of inspiring young girls to envision their greatest imaginable life goals, and dream of realizing them.


One of the issues with hosting two matches at this cup is that attendance takes a significant hit during the match which doesn’t involve the United States – it does seem rather counter-intuitive to have the US team play first, making the first match sort of the main event, leaving the stadium virtually empty for the second match.


Despite the second match in such a large stadium having much of the energy sucked out of it, supporters of the remaining international teams are still every bit as passionate in cheering for the soccer heroes and legends of their home nation.

 

Neighborhood   5

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in the heart of downtown Atlanta, sits just to the west of State Farm Arena. The area is thriving with points of interest and entertainment; a short walk from the facility’s front entrance are Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the United States. Directly across from the aquarium is the World of Coca-Cola, a museum dedicated to telling the history the Atlanta founded soft-drink company.


Given Atlanta’s role in the fight for civil rights, several points around the city pay honor to the struggle – the National Museum of Civil and Human Rights is on the northernmost edge of the park. Also, in the nearby Sweet Auburn neighborhood visitors can find the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, Dr. King’s birthplace, and the Ebenezer Street Baptist Church.


The area just outside the gates of Mercedes-Benz Stadium is currently undergoing a makeover, as the area known as “The Gultch” is being transformed into the $5 billion development known as “Centennial Yards”. With a projected completion date of 2028, two-thirds of the buildings will be ready in time for when the World Cup comes to Atlanta in 2026, and the rest will be under construction by that time

 

Fans   5

When it comes to supporting your country, there is a level of pride and collectivism that brings communities together. The pride in our country, and the Women’s National Team that represents it, comes with an elevated sense of fandom. Soccer fans might be some of the most diverse and inclusionary of any of the major sports.


What tends to be refreshing about fans of the USWNT is they are extremely supportive of team members, with a great deal of that support coming from the demographic that is the future of women’s soccer in the United States.


A stadium with more than 50,000 fans holds their collective breath as the ball enters the penalty area, waiting to exhale and react depending on the outcome of the try. Fans also release a stadium-wide gasp for a ball that sails just wide of the goal, or erupt into celebration when the ball finds the back of the net.


The United States National Team supporters, dubbed the “American Outlaws”, definitely are a supportive bunch, often starting up and leading many of the chants throughout the match. Their chants and drum beating throughout helps to add to the festive atmosphere of international soccer.



The attendance of 50,644 for the 2024 semi-finals of the SheBelives Cup set a record for the largest attendance for a US women’s soccer friendly on US soil in history – Atlanta has proven that the American version of football is not the only one of interest in the city and its surrounding communities.


Access 4


With Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s location in downtown Atlanta, it can create some hurdles getting to the area. In a city of this size, events here can be just one of several events happening around Atlanta that day.  Also, adding to the challenge is that there is only so much parking available at the stadium, and it can get expensive. Given these challenges, using Atlanta’s subway system, MARTA, might make the most sense - the availability of MARTA at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport even gives fans flying to Atlanta the flexibility of not needing a vehicle to enjoy the attractions in Downtown Atlanta.


Bottom line is when bringing so many people to one location, inevitably it will create some headaches that require a bit of patience to deal with.

 

Return on Investment   3

Tickets for the semi-finals give fans access to two matches and start at $40, but once Ticketmaster fees are applied the base ticket price jumps to nearly $60. For two matches this is a good deal, but it is disappointing that ticket prices get so inflated with fees. The best bet might be to look on the secondary market, where prices tend to be slightly lower than the face value.


Parking in the area can get a bit pricy, adding to the cost. General lots around the stadium can run as much as $60 per car, with some discounted to $30. If you are willing to walk a bit, spaces around Centennial Olympic Park can be had for closer to $20, however.


One source of financial relief can be found at the concession stands, which have a designated menu of highly affordable options. Each fan can probably have enough food to keep them full for under $20.

 

Extras   5

In the weeks following the SheBelieves Cup finals, the USWNT hosts the SheBelieves Summit, which is designed to provide college students and young professionals with both networking opportunities and access to panel discussions, to help positively shape their careers.


The importance of what the SheBelieves Cup represents for the youngest fans of the USWNT is not lost on the players. Many players discuss the impact the event has in encouraging young women and girls to reach their dreams, athletic or otherwise.


The concourse at Mercedes-Benz Stadium does a good job of establishing a stadium feel that doesn’t make it feel like soccer is just being shoehorned into a football stadium – a series of soccer-specific displays and promotional features give fans the feeling that soccer has a home in this facility.


The excitement created by the American Outlaws goes a long way in creating a fun, international soccer atmosphere throughout the stadium.


In December of 2023, the United States Soccer Federation announced they would be moving U.S. Soccer’s training center to the community of Fayetteville, just south of Atlanta. In doing so, US Soccer is establishing roots in metropolitan Atlanta that will reach further than just the south Atlanta metropolitan area; an official groundbreaking occurred in April 2024, with the completion of Arthur M. Blank U.S. Soccer National Training Center slated for 2026, in time for the World Cup coming to the city.

 

Final Thoughts

The chance for fans young and old to cheer on long time USWNT heroes Alex Morgan, Mallory (Pugh) Swanson, and Lindsey Horan, as well as the heroes of tomorrow in Jaedyn Shaw, Olivia Moultrie, and Sophia Smith, is an opportunity that can create everlasting memories for the youngest of fans.



In addition, the experience of witnessing some of the top athletes in the word, while representing the soil on which they play, is an extremely special experience that can be difficult to turn down, even for the casual soccer fan.

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