Today commissioner Don Garber announced Atlanta would be the home of Major League Soccer’s newest expansion team, set to begin play in 2017.
The team will be owned by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, and plans are in place for both teams to share a stadium. The brand new stadium will have 29,000 seats available for soccer games alone.
Atlanta was the largest US market to not have a MLS team, until today. The culmination of 6 years of planning was finalized today, with commissioner Garber saying, “Atlanta is one of the largest and most diverse markets in North America and has a rich tradition in sports and culture.” Blank first contacted MLS about an ownership opportunity in 2008, and visited multiple locations for a potential team. This makes the 3rd expansion side announced in the last two years, and it appears MLS is well on its way to adding 24 teams by 2020.
If all goes according to plan, Atlanta will begin play in 2017 (along with Miami, possibly), and could attract one of the largest crowds in Major League Soccer. There will always be opponents of expansion, citing the old NASL disaster, but this could be vastly different. MLS is not adding too many teams too quickly in this case; they are methodically adding them with fantastic ownership that will invest in the team. With new owners like David Beckham, Manchester City, and now Arthur Blank, the expansion sides should be able to make an immediate impact on the financial side of the league. However, all of this spending has to be done smartly, to avoid putting the small market teams (like Dallas or New England) out of business. Don Garber is the right man to control the league and its plans for expansion, and could lead the league into new heights among the world’s best.