Fans of Cruz Azul display their flag during a Leagues Cup Match against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, July 29, 2023. (Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

There were a pair of Cruz Azul fans standing on the corner of Marietta Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive hours before the Mexican clubs match against Atlanta United Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. One of the men was wearing a blue and white Lucha Libre mask and both were wearing Cruz Azul shirts. Whether the men were from Mexico City, where Cruz Azul plays its home matches in Liga MX or from right here in Atlanta, soccer was very much in the air (and at one point quite literally).

Cruz Azul fans pose for photos before a Leagues Cup match on Saturday, July 29, 2023 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

This week there were five clubs from two countries playing in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, beginning on Wednesday with four English Premier League (EPL) clubs playing in the Premier League Summer Series, a tour across the United States involving EPL clubs at Major League Soccer and National Football League stadiums. On Saturday the Leagues Cup, a combined tournament involving Major League Soccer and Liga Mx, Mexico’s version of the Premier League, brought Cruz Azul to Atlanta. Following a Cruz Azul goal in the 10th minute, blue smoke started billowing from a support section. This was a soccer atmosphere of the highest order and it was wonderful. Both Atlanta United and soccer fans in Atlanta can expect more of this passion and pageantry from the supporter sections when the world returns to downtown Atlanta in a couple years. The 1996 Summer Olympic Games might be the only honest comparison.

Newcastle United supporters filled the stadium Wednesday night. “The Toon Army” were in town for the Premier League Summer Series. More than 70,000 attended the two-match night. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta United

Just over 41,00 were in attendance Saturday night. More than 70,000 were in the building Wednesday night. From England to Mexico to Atlanta, supporters filled Mercedes-Benz Stadium this week in what can only be considered a dress rehearsal for World Cup 2026.

Newcastle United and Chelsea supporters sang songs throughout their match. Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford played a super-entertaining match that saw a pair of wonderful goals in the 19th and 58th minutes from Simon Adingra.

Thiago Almada’s goal in the 75th minute that tied the match brought United fans to their feet. Having one of the best players in Major League Soccer doesn’t hurt for

I can make a legitimate argument that Atlanta is the best sports town in America, but that’s a column for another day. Right now I’d like to publicly apply for the “Best Soccer Town in America” competition.

The match went into penalties Saturday night, and even though United lost (5-4) the expectation is the soccer fans of Atlanta and elsewhere will continue to fill stands.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...