“We are thrilled to welcome Atlanta to Major League Soccer as our 22nd team,” Commissioner Garber said. “Atlanta is one of the largest and most diverse markets in North America and has a rich tradition in sports and culture. And with Arthur Blank joining our ownership group, we are adding one of the most respected owners in professional sports. Arthur is deeply passionate about soccer and our quest to become one of the top professional soccer leagues in the world. We look forward to working with him and the entire Falcons organization on achieving this important goal.”
“We are very excited to bring a Major League Soccer team to Atlanta," said Blank. "We are going to build a first-class organization on and off the field that will be a source of pride for the entire community, and we believe our downtown stadium will become a destination for soccer fans throughout the Southeast for many years to come."
Atlanta features a diverse population of young adults that are connected to the sport of soccer. During the past decade, the Hispanic-American population in metropolitan Atlanta has doubled in size and the state of Georgia has long been a hotbed for youth soccer. Atlanta-area products include MLS All-Star and U.S. World Cup veterans Clint Mathis (Conyers), Josh Wolff (Stone Mountain) and Ricardo Clark (Jonesboro), and current MLS standouts such as Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson (Lilburn) and Montreal Impact striker Jack McInerney (Alpharetta). In addition, current U.S. women’s national team star Kelley O’Hara (Fayetteville) and 1991 Women’s World Cup winner Linda Hamilton (Atlanta) are from Georgia, and FIFA Female Player of the Century Michelle Akers currently resides in Powder Springs.
During the last few years, crowds of more than 50,000 fans have regularly attended international soccer matches in Atlanta. Recently, nearly 70,000 fans attended the March 5 match between Mexico and Nigeria, and more than 16,000 fans attended the U.S. women’s national team victory over Russia on February 13.
“A Major League Soccer franchise in the city of Atlanta is another strong example of how our city and region continue to draw world-class professional teams, cultural attractions, sporting events and new businesses that create jobs, attract more visitors to our city and make Atlanta the center of commerce in the Southeast region of the United States,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. “Atlanta has long been an international city with a vibrant and diverse population. An MLS soccer team competing in our new state-of-the-art facility could not be a more fitting and welcome addition as we continue on our path towards being one of the leading cities in the world. I want to personally thank Arthur Blank and his team for their hard work in making this goal a reality and for believing in Atlanta.”
"Georgia is home to some of the most passionate sports fans in the country," said Governor Nathan Deal. "And no sport has grown in popularity during the last two decades as much as soccer. I expect game days for our new team in Atlanta to be colorful and festive events, with people from all over the state making the trip to the state capital to support the team."
In March 2017, the new Atlanta MLS team is expected to host the first sporting event in the state-of-the-art retractable roof stadium that will serve as home to the soccer club and the Atlanta Falcons. For MLS games, the stadium will feature a more intimate configuration, with a seating capacity of 29,322. The venue will be located adjacent to multiple MARTA rapid-transit stations, providing easy access to soccer fans throughout the region.
Since 2008, Major League Soccer, Arthur Blank and executives from the Atlanta Falcons and AMB Group, the parent company of the new MLS club and the Falcons, have been working closely to bring top-flight soccer to Atlanta. The group’s work included visits to six MLS markets to discuss club business operations and tour stadiums, as well as discussions with another six MLS teams.
One of the most highly-regarded owners in professional sports, Arthur Blank acquired the Atlanta Falcons in 2002. A native of Flushing, N.Y., Blank is the co-founder of The Home Depot, where he retired as co-chairman in 2001. At the time of his retirement from The Home Depot, the company was a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and one of Fortune Magazine's "Global Most Admired Companies." During Blank's last year as CEO of the company, The Home Depot ranked first in social responsibility in an annual survey conducted by Harris Interactive, Inc.
The Atlanta team’s nickname and logo, along with the coaching and administrative staff, will be announced at a later date. Fans will be asked to provide their suggestions for the team name.
Five thousand $50 deposits for Atlanta Major League Soccer 2017 season tickets will be accepted beginning today. The first 5,000 fans who put a deposit down will be eligible to purchase up to eight season tickets for the 2017 season and members of their accounts will become Founding Members of the club. Founding Members will be recognized as such in the new stadium. Members of the new stadium team are working now on exactly what that recognition will be. For more information on securing a season ticket for 2017, fans should visit www.MLSAtlanta2017.com.
With the addition of Atlanta, MLS has added 11 clubs since the beginning of the 2005 season, leading to a remarkable and rapid transformation of professional soccer in North America. Two more expansion teams will be added by 2020, including a potential club in Miami owned by David Beckham that is expected to be finalized later this year.
About Major League Soccer
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer is the top-flight professional soccer league in the United States and Canada. MLS features many stars from the U.S., Canada, and around the world. Major League Soccer’s 19th season began March 8. The League’s 19 clubs for 2014 include the Chicago Fire; Chivas USA; Colorado Rapids; Columbus Crew; D.C. United; FC Dallas; Houston Dynamo; LA Galaxy; Montreal Impact; New York Red Bulls; New England Revolution; Philadelphia Union; Portland Timbers; Real Salt Lake; San Jose Earthquakes; Seattle Sounders FC; 2013 MLS Cup Champion Sporting Kansas City; Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Expansion teams New York City FC and Orlando City Soccer Club will begin play in 2015. For more information about MLS, log on to www.MLSsoccer.com.
QUOTES ON THE NEW MLS ATLANTA EXPANSION TEAM AND SOCCER IN GEORGIA
(click HERE to download video interviews)
“I think it’s fantastic that MLS is expanding to Atlanta. It’s a great city, a great market and a great opportunity. I don’t think there is a better place to expand. I have a special tie to Atlanta and it will be fantastic to see something back home. Soccer is growing and growing, and over the years it has become one of the bigger sports in Georgia.”
Sean Johnson - Chicago Fire and U.S. national team goalkeeper
- Born in Lilburn, GA and attended Brookwood High School
Played club soccer for Atlanta Fire United soccer club
“I think it’s exciting that Atlanta is getting an MLS team. There’s a ton of talent there. I know thousands and thousands of kids play in the area. I have younger sisters that still play, so I think it makes it exciting for them to see that there is a professional environment and it’s something they can work for.”
Jack McInerney – Montreal Impact forward
- Grew up in Alpharetta
Played club soccer for Cobb Futbol Club
“When I was growing up we didn’t really have a professional soccer league to look up to, definitely nothing like MLS, so to have that direct connection in your own city is going to be something beneficial for not only the fans going to the games, but most importantly for the kids.”
Ricardo Clark - Houston Dynamo Midfielder
- Grew up in Jonesboro, GA and attended St. Pius High School
Played club soccer for AFC Lightning
“The crowd in Atlanta was amazing the last time we played there. They were enthusiastic, engaged in the game and were happy to be there. They are excited about soccer.”
Kelley O’Hara – U.S. women’s national team and Sky Blue FC defender (2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, 2011 Women’s World Cup runner-up)
- Grew up in Fayetteville, GA and attended Starr’s Mill High School
Played club soccer for Peachtree City Lazers
“I think it is very exciting. I think it is a great opportunity for the city. A lot of good youth talent comes from the Atlanta area, and there are a lot of big (youth) clubs in the area.”
Clint Mathis - Assistant Coach, Chicago Fire (former MLS and U.S. national team player)
- Grew up in Conyers, GA and attended Heritage High School
Played club soccer for AFC Lightning
“It’s a great opportunity that has been a long time coming. Being from Atlanta, I am really excited. I think (the new team) will have a tremendous impact. The landscape of youth soccer -- and soccer in general -- in the state of Georgia has been changing rapidly and this will really give an identity to the sport.”
Josh Wolff – Assistant Coach, Columbus Crew (former MLS and U.S. national team player)
- Grew up in Stone Mountain, GA and attended Parkview High School
Played club soccer for Brookwood Steamers, Gwinnett Soccer Assn., DSA Mustangs and AFC Lightning
“It’s amazing. I’m really excited because we need more teams, not only in the south, but in and around the rest of the country.”
Abby Wambach - U.S. women’s national team (all-time leading scorer) and Western NY Flash Forward (two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, three Women’s World Cups)
- Scored a goal in the U.S. victory over Russia in Atlanta on Feb. 13, 2014
“I think it is a great market. I grew up in Florida and played in quite a few tournaments up in Atlanta. I played in the Atlanta Cup growing up. It is such a huge soccer community. You can’t help but think they are going to thrive there.”
Graham Zusi – Sporting Kansas City and U.S. national team midfielder