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Report: Atlanta in ‘significant discussions’ for MLS franchise

Sep 12, 2013, 7:30 PM EDT

Arthur Blank AP

According to a story in Thursday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank (pictured, left) is in advanced talks with Major League Soccer about expanding to Atlanta.

From the report:

Blank has long expressed an interest in a team. The recent approval of the new Falcons’ stadium accelerated the talks between Blank and the league. The construction of the stadium is scheduled to be finished in 2017 and the two parties have discussed opening the stadium with an MLS game.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said on Wednesday that the league has already decided where three of the league’s next four expansion teams will be located. Perhaps Atlanta would complete the quartet, if the Journal-Constitution’s report is accurate.

(MORE: Has Major League Soccer already decided on three more expansion teams?)

General consensus is that the southeastern United States is set to receive at least one franchise, as it is the only area of the country currently without a team.

  1. seanbulv - Sep 12, 2013 at 7:35 PM

    Reblogged this on the93rdminute and commented:
    MLS is growing rapidly. One caveat though is that last time this happened the league contracted. However, I believe the odds are stacked in Don Garber’s favor as of now. With the success of all the new MLS expansion franchises there should be nothing but optimism from MLS fans until we are shown otherwise.

  2. talgrath - Sep 12, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    So would this mean the Silverbacks are getting “promoted” to MLS if true? Or is Blank looking to create a brand new team?

    • danielofthedale - Sep 12, 2013 at 8:49 PM

      I would be shocked if the Silverbacks names transfers over to the MLS team. While I don’t mind the Silverbacks name I think we could come up with something better. But as long as FC is not attached to it I will take just about anything.

      • braxtonrob - Sep 13, 2013 at 1:43 AM

        LOL, yeah, I’m so sick of ‘FC’ this and ‘FC’ that. This is America, you don’t have to explain to us it’s a sports team, haha.

      • footballer4ever - Sep 14, 2013 at 1:37 PM

        Exactly. Instead of Silverbacks FC , all MLS teams should have their name followed by Football Club witthout any abbreviations. Great point!

    • overtherepermanently - Sep 12, 2013 at 9:11 PM

      Silverbacks and Blank are not associated. All signs point to the Silverbacks being satisfied with the status quo.

  3. hate23putt - Sep 12, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    Playing in an NFL Stadium would be bad for the MLS just like it is at *foxboro with the revolution.

    MLS has done well with soccer specific stadiums (Seattle is the exception) and just try to stick to that formula for all future franchise. Atlanta is a tough market for pro sports so I hope the league does not have an issue drawing fans to the games.

    Authur Blank is a wealthy owner and high profile for MLS so that is very good for the league.

    • danielofthedale - Sep 12, 2013 at 8:59 PM

      The Falcons stadium has two things that work in its favor much more than the Pats stadium. One is it will be downtown where as the Patriots play 45 miles outside of Boston from what my Pats friends tell me. Also there is just one road in and out of the stadium making it a nightmare to get to park and leave the stadium. That will not be a problem with the Falcons stadium and it will have good access to public transit.

      Additionally the Atlanta market is not nearly as bad as those who do notice believe it is. The Braves are always in the the top 50 to 25 percent in attenedence. The Falcons have been a great draw since Blank took over and the team was run in a competent fashion. The Thrashers where probably the worst franchise in North America during their time in Atlanta and I would say no expansion team anywhere would have a much better attendance over the course of their time.

      One other point is that MLS and soccer fans differ greatly than the big four sports in terms of demographics and Atlanta is growing in those. I’m not saying we will average 25k a game it of the gate but I would think 15k to start with the first season or two is more than a reasonable expectation.

      • jdfsquared - Sep 12, 2013 at 11:44 PM

        Isn’t that the point, tho? 15K in an NFL stadium would look like an abject failure both in person and on TV, where MLS really needs help. Seattle can pull it off b/c they get upwards of 35K rabid fans at EVERY game. Would Atlanta be able to create that kind of atmosphere inside an NFL cavern? Probably not. Putting the team in the Falcons house would be a mistake.

      • eroc3927 - Sep 13, 2013 at 12:28 PM

        When you play in a NFL stadium you are basically a stepchild of the NFL. The locker room has NFL plastered all over it. The administration offices and stadium itself will have the NFL plastered all over it. Seattle is the only place it works because they draw NFL size crowds. Foxboro is a mess. I checked the attendance for some of the games there and Orlando City draw more. Garber got to take it easy. Why is he in so much of a rush. Arthur Blank needs to build a Soccer specific stadium. If he gives Arthur Blank a MLS franchise knowing that there home will be in a NFL size stadium, then why hasn’t he given Orlando City a Franchise. He said he didn’t want Orlando City playing at the Citrus Bowl. This is the only reason why Orlando Is not in MLS. Now he is going to go back on his word to require every new applicant to have a soccer specific stadium by awarding Arthur Blank a MLS franchise. This is bull.

      • danielofthedale - Sep 13, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        @eroc the new Falcons stadium was designed with both NFL and MLS locker rooms. The stadium will also be like BC Place that has a secondary roof that will limit capacity to just the lower bowl so it will not look like they are playing in an NFL stadium.

        And I don’t feel that Blank would pay the expansion fee to just have a mediocre team. He has been successful at everything he has done. He has been a great citizen to the City of Atlanta both with his corporate, sporting, and charitable interests. I think he has more than earned the trust to have an MLS team and run it in a professional way and he has never been afraid to spend money.

  4. jmillmac - Sep 12, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    Are we sure that they’re number 4, and not 3? Either way that still leaves one unaccounted for, if you assume Orlando &. Miami are locks.

  5. hildezero - Sep 12, 2013 at 10:11 PM

    @hate23putt,

    I agree with you. It would suck for MLS if the Atlanta club played in a NFL stadium. Revolution are the worst franchise in MLS after Chivas. Revolution can’t even get their own stadium, let alone fill it with fans.

  6. futbol247365 - Sep 12, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    The Braves are number 15 in MLB attendance this year. They are in 1st place in the NL East. Would hate to see how ugly gets when they are not good. The Hawks also can’t even sell out playoff games either, much less regular season. They have lost a hockey team… twice. This is a town of front runners and terrible fandom. Miami has a better shot than Atlanta and that is saying something. MLS is making a mistake here. I am biased but Nashville is a better market. Closer to the other teams, have a stadium the Men’s and Women’s National Teams already play in and are consistently one of the 3 best TV markets for the USMNT. The Titans have one of the best attendance records in the NFL and the Predators are now one of the best attended teams in NHL. Atlanta won’t last. Don’t do it Garber, resist that Arthur Blank money…

    • braxtonrob - Sep 13, 2013 at 1:48 AM

      @futbol, I agree with you. I want Atlanta to be a good choice, but Nashville is a much better choice.

  7. atgeorge - Sep 13, 2013 at 4:21 AM

    IMO it would really ruin the momentum that MLS has established with the Northwest teams and Canadian teams. NFL owners looking to fill their dates at new stadiums do not work…Krafts in Boston and Hunts in Kansas City; Seattle’s partnership with the Seahawks is unique…football management is not involved. Seattle’s Roth pulled the trigger on Dempsey, do you think the Krafts would ever even consider. You have to have an owner that is passionate about the game. Look at KC after the team got out from underneath the Chiefs and out of that huge stadium… Arthur Blank, while a nice man and good NFL owner, is NOT a fit for MLS.

  8. atgeorge - Sep 13, 2013 at 4:27 AM

    It comes down to TV ratings and what markets MLS is in so that they can demand the biggest TV contract. Atlanta vs. Sacramento…Atlanta vs North Carolina…Atlanta vs. St Louis…Atlanta vs San Antonio…Atlanta’s tv market share beats them all whether they have good ownership, an NFL stadium, a bad team, or not…

    Its not personal…its business…

    • wfjackson3 - Sep 13, 2013 at 7:52 AM

      That’s not necessarily true. It’s about projected market penetration. If they get more eyeballs actually watching in STL than in Hotlanta, it doesn’t matter what the overall potential viewership is.

    • eroc3927 - Sep 13, 2013 at 12:40 PM

      Why put a team in Atlanta if nobody cares and nobody shows up for the games. You got to have grassroots following. This is the blunder MLS is making. You cannot just put a team in a big city dominated by the NFL and think you are going to succeed. How much soccer is being played in Atlanta? Not a lot. MLS need to replicate what Oklahoma City Thunder did in the NBA. Not a big market but great fans, great ownership, great athletes, attractive style of play. This is why people watch. A lot of sports fan nowadays follow athletes more than they follow a team. If Orlando City sign Kaka and build a great soccer stadium with great fans you can see people nationwide watching a team like that. Its not necessarily about the size of the TV market, although i get your drift. I understand MLS want to get a good TV contract, but people have to be watching first before you can demand that. If you have 2million people in Atlanta and 1,000 viewers locally watching, I don’t know what type of TV contract you can demand.

      • danielofthedale - Sep 13, 2013 at 1:13 PM

        @eroc, its clear that you have not spent much time in Atlanta! There is huge rec. soccer market in Atlanta. Some of the best youth teams in the nation are in the Metro Atlanta area. Also Silverbacks games are packed at Silverbacks Park and there a number of bars that a smack full on US National Team game nights/days.

        But really none of that translates into attendance at MLS games. The biggest demo in MLS attendance growth is young, college educated professionals. That is a demo that is booming in the Atlanta area. Most of them are coming from out of state so its hard lump them into the Myth of crappy Atlanta sports fans. So there are a number of factors that make Atlanta a good place for an MLS team.

      • reidldavis - Sep 13, 2013 at 1:32 PM

        WHAT? People play TONS of soccer in this town! Aside from the professional squad (which draws 5,000 a match and yes, I’m a season-ticket holder) Silverbacks Park is packed out every single night with adult leagues running until midnight. There are youth clubs all over the place (we’ve produced lots of MLS players on our fields, from Philly’s “Jack Mack” to Chicago’s Sean Johnson.) My daughter’s club, in intown Atlanta, has 1,500 players from U7 to U18. I don’t love the adapted NFL stadium, but there’s a HUGE untapped market here, seems to me.

  9. futbol247365 - Sep 13, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    St Louis would also be a great market, all though not in the South East.

  10. toooldtoplaybutdoanyway - Sep 13, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    The big issue for me will be that this team would be playing downtown. I hate going down there for games. Yes, I live in the suburbs.
    I am also a Braves fan – I have often wondered how many games I did not go to due to the location of the stadium – too much planning involved due to the location.

    Anyway, I have complete confidence in Mr. Blank if he does this.

    Michael

  11. danielofthedale - Sep 13, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    Reports coming out today say the new Falcons stadium is going to be like BC Place. It will have a secondary retractable roof that will cover the upper level and leave only the the lower bowl of 27,000 in view. A much better plan I think.

  12. lostintransocean - Sep 13, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    The NFL stadium would work only if it was like BC Place where an artificial roof is added so it doesn’t look so large during MLS competition.

  13. arrington1279 - Sep 13, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    So I guess only Orlando City SC needs to build a soccer specific stadium? I mean, I get that the Citrus Bowl is too run down as it is, but they weren’t even offered the option of fixing it up. Given that NY2 has no stadium and apparently Atlanta can just play in their NFL stadium, the Orlando restrictions seem just a wee bit inconsistent.

    • danielofthedale - Sep 13, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      I hate to break it to you but not all situations are equal and its not because one city is any better than another but because they just offer different things. Atlanta has a few things that can bump the SSS requirment.

      Its a very large TV market that with a new tv contract will add real value.

      It has a very large corporate base home to the fourth largest collection of Fortune 500 companies in the Nation. That means getting a lot of people with a lot of potential sponsorship dollars eyes on MLS. That can lead to more cash for the league.

      I think the respect that Blank has in both the sports and corporate world plays into this. He has the deep, deep pockets that MLS wants in new owners. Owners who will not be on the verge of collapse if a team is off to a rocky start. I think MLS wants him in the League and with him paying out over half a billion dollars to fix the Dome after the tornado hit it and the funding the new stadium MLS know he just does not have the cash to build a second stadium.

      Also the new stadium is being reported to be like BC Place so the MLS team will not be playing in the cavernous NFL stadium so to speak. Think of it as quasi-Soccer Specific. The stadium will also be state of the art and much nicer than the Citrus Bowl.

      • chadmoon1 - Sep 16, 2013 at 5:27 PM

        There is no such thing as “quasi” soccer specific. It either is or is not. MLS is going in the wrong direction for allowing this. If Blank wants a franchise, then build a home for it..

  14. crossmlk - Sep 13, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    This is no comment of the quality of an Atlanta bid but to expansion as a whole and one place it, in my opinion, has to go to benefit the development of the league. As a Kansas City guy I believe that St. Louis has to be one of the next four. Beyond the soccer tradition and history of the city St. Louis would do a lot for the development of the league and it’s existing franchises. For most other markets MLS has gone out of their way to bring in natural rivals for teams. See the excellent job they’ve done in the Pacific Northwest. The addition of Philly to make the Eastern corridor have even greater rivalry opportunities. The addition of Montreal gives Toronto a natural and traditional rival.

    If MLS wants to double down on the success of SKC and give a boost to Chicago (who have had a lot of success as a franchise in their own right) as well but also doesn’t have great natural rivals available, St. Louis MUST get a franchise. A nice three way rivalry might give the Chicago-KC rivalry a little extra bite as it really hasn’t taken off. The funny thing about rivalry’s is they can’t be forced but they can be developed. St. Louis could be a catalyst to make that happen for Chicago-KC.

    MLS has developed (or had developed for them) a very successful franchise in KC. It’s time for them to show their support for it!

    • danielofthedale - Sep 13, 2013 at 2:06 PM

      I live in Atlanta and I totally agree that St. Louis would probably be a very a good spot for an MLS team. The only thing is that MLS wants deep pocketed owners, even more than SSS, as a requirement for expansion. Does St. Louis have anyone that would fit the bill that is also interested in owning an MLS team. I mean if there is no one wanting to put a team in St. Louis you cant really blame MLS for not putting one there.

      • crossmlk - Sep 13, 2013 at 2:12 PM

        I agree with you daniel. If you can’t find an owner it all comes to naught but I think MLS needs to beat the bushes there. I know during the last round of expansion there was a significant group pushing for a SSS and expansion into St. Louis. I think MLS should be pro active in the case of St. Louis. It makes to much sense to not make the attempt.

  15. kane337 - Sep 13, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    With Arthur Blank owning the team it will no doubt be successful. The man has been successful in everything he’s done. The new stadium has already been designed with soccer in mind. newstadium.atlantafalcons.com

  16. kane337 - Sep 13, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    Fast forward to 2:18 to see the soccer layout of the new Atlanta stadium. Rumor has it they will call the team the Firebirds.

    http://www.ajc.com/videos/news/video-renderings-for-new-falcons-stadium/vzmrn/

  17. footballer4ever - Sep 14, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    In order for MLS to cover the southeast appropiately, Atlanta, Orlando and Miami are not only big metropolitan TV markets, but pretty much solves the absence of football in this area. The Fourth team, I am sure will go either to St. Louis or San Antonio Scorpions Football club to complete the Texas Trifecta.

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