Atlanta MLS team
|Stadium||New Atlanta Stadium|
|Capacity||29,322 (MLS configuration)|
|League||Major League Soccer|
The Atlanta MLS team is a Major League Soccer expansion franchise in Atlanta, Georgia that plans to begin play in 2017. The team, which was announced by the league on April 16, 2014, will be owned and operated by Home Depot co-founder and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, and will play in the New Atlanta Stadium, currently under construction. Following Orlando City, the Atlanta team was the second expansion team in five months established in the southeastern United States.
At the time the expansion franchise was awarded in April 2014, Atlanta was the largest metropolitan area without an MLS franchise. Arthur Blank's AMB Group initially submitted a bid in 2008 for an expansion franchise, but withdrew the bid in early 2009 due to its inability to get a stadium built.
Dan Courtemanche, MLS's executive vice president, said in July 2010 that Atlanta was under consideration as a potential expansion market, and the league had regular discussions with the Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank about bringing an MLS team to the area. On May 11, 2012, MLS Commissioner Don Garber cited Atlanta as one of three "intriguing" markets for future league expansion.
On May 16, 2012, at the Falcons' annual meeting with season ticket holders, Blank presented his case for a new stadium, saying in part that it could help attract a Major League Soccer franchise and potentially host World Cup matches. In November 2012, Garber said that if the Falcons could complete plans for a new stadium, MLS would "try to figure out how an MLS team could be part of their plans." In March 2013, the city and the Falcons agreed to financing for the new stadium.
As of April 2013, the league and the Falcons were in contact regularly, and Rich McKay, Falcons president and CEO, said that the team was "open to various options, including [its] ownership of a team or someone else owning a team". Dan Courtemanche said, “We are big believers in the Atlanta market,” and cited the city's growing Hispanic population and corporations that could serve as sponsors.
In May 2013, the Georgia Department of Economic Development board approved $30 million in bonds to finance the land purchase. The stadium was set to open in 2017 and could be configured for professional soccer.
In December 2013, during the MLS State of the League address, Garber emphasized MLS's goal of continuing to expand in the southeast, and added, "if we can continue to advance our discussions positively with Arthur [Blank] and the [Atlanta] Falcons, we hope to be able to get a situation finalized so that could potentially be our second team. Orlando being the first, maybe Atlanta or Miami would be the second or the third.”
Discussions between Blank and MLS accelerated following approval of the stadium plans. In December 2013, Garber said the league was making progress in discussions with the Falcons and that the stadium situation was finalized. Courtemanche said in January 2014 that the city “remains a great prospect for MLS expansion,” and in February 2014, Rich McKay said the Falcons and MLS were “far along in negotiations.”
Blank announced the expansion franchise on April 16, 2014, and said the fans would be involved in choosing the name, logo and "a color scheme that'll work with the red and black with a little bit of gold mixed in" (the colors used by the Falcons when they launched in 1966).
Atlanta became the second franchise awarded in the southeastern United States in five months, following Orlando City announced in late 2013, in a region that had been without MLS teams after the failures of Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny.
In the April 2014 press release announcing the team's launch, the league said Atlanta will begin play in 2017 in the retractable-roof stadium being built for the Falcons in downtown Atlanta. While the stadium has a capacity of 65,000, it can be reduced to 29,322 for the MLS team. Blank said stands would be retractable to accommodate a larger pitch and allow better sight lines, while curtains would be used to close off the upper section to create an intimate atmosphere. Blank also said, "There will never be an MLS game in Atlanta where NFL lines are shown on the field."
Team owner Arthur M. Blank is an American businessman and a co-founder of The Home Depot. Today he is known for his philanthropy and his ownership of the Atlanta Falcons in the National Football League.
Terminus Legion is a supporter group that was created in March 2011 by graphic designer Matt Stigall, who wanted a way to show that Atlanta fans would support soccer despite the perception of the city as a "lazy sports town". The group was named after the name given to Atlanta when it was first settled, and its logo featuring a cow catcher and railroad ties reflect the city's history as a locomotive hub. In the days since the expansion team was awarded, its membership doubled to over 500, and in the time leading up to 2017, Stigall said the group would support "all Atlanta soccer" including the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL and at the grassroots level, and make road trips to D.C. United and Orlando City matches.
The supporters of the new MLS team had already pledged to purchase more than 20,000 season tickets.
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