Apr 16, 2014, 5:26 PM EDT
Acting as master of ceremonies, Alexi Lalas wasted no time implicitly confirming what we all knew. With Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber and the league’s newest owner arriving at Wednesday’s announcement via helicopter, MLS confirmed that Home Depot co-founder and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank would own the league’s 22nd franchise, adding Atlanta to the list of new teams that will anchor the league’s efforts in the U.S. Southeast.
“We are thrilled to welcome Atlanta to Major League Soccer as our 22nd team,” the commissioner said in a statement, distributed by the league. “Atlanta is one of the largest and most diverse markets in North America and has a rich tradition in sports and culture.
Atlanta had emerged as the clear favorite for the league’s next expansion franchise after Garber spoke favorably about the city’s candidacy in a late-winter teleconference. Now, with the league having confirmed the team’s entry, one that will begin play in 2017, MLS’s vision for the U.S. Southeast is complete. Joining franchises in Orlando City SC and David Beckham’s presumed team in Miami, Atlanta will try to reestablish a presence in a region in which Major League Soccer has previously failed.
“We are very excited to bring a Major League Soccer team to Atlanta,” Blank said, according to the league’s website. “[W]e believe our downtown stadium will become a destination for soccer fans throughout the Southeast for many years to come.”
The Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion closed their doors in 2001, leaving lingering doubts as to the viability to professional soccer in the league’s southeast corridor. Emphasizing the importance or reestablishing MLS’s presence in that region, Garber spoke to the role Atlanta will play in the league’s growth, saying the city’s growth and diversity made it a target market for the quickly expanding league.
Garber confirmed the team will share a new venue with the Falcons, one that will open in 2013. According to Blank, the team will play on an artificial surface, with the venue’s seating allowing the NFL configuration to give way to a wider soccer arrangement with reduced seating. During the session’s question and answer segment, Blank indicated the expected capacity will be around 29,000, emphasizing “there will never be a game where NFL lines are shown on the field.”
In July 2013, Garber announced MLS’s intention to expand from 19 teams to 24 by 2020. Teams in New York, Orlando and potentially Miami had been previously announced, with Atlanta now set to occupy the league’s 23rd slot.
May 5, 2015, 11:25 PM EDT
If you’d like your supporters group to be featured on future episodes of ‘I Was There’ simply send pictures/video to @NBCSportsSoccer or on NBC Sports Soccer on Facebook using the #IWasThere hashtag.
May 5, 2015, 10:46 PM EDT
Adam Jahn scored with his head while David Bingham made a big penalty stop to lead San Jose to all three points.
May 5, 2015, 9:43 PM EDT
Pep Guardiola faces his former club when Bayern Munich travels to Camp Nou to take on Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal matchup.
May 5, 2015, 8:58 PM EDT
The struggling Tottenham striker seems to have more problems than just scoring goals.
May 5, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
The Real Madrid boss is confident his side can overcome the 2-1 deficit following a first leg defeat in Italy.
May 5, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT
Aliko Dangote has a net worth of nearly $16 billion, and he wants to use some of that cash to buy the Gunners.
May 5, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
The duo won the Champions League together with Manchester United in 2008, and Patrice Evra thinks that gives them an edge with Juventus.
May 5, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT
The Italian champs take a slender lead to the Spanish capital with them after a classic European encounter.
May 5, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT
A second-half penalty from Carlos Tevez led Juventus to a big home win over Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.
May 5, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT
CR7’s personal duel with Messi continues after grabbing his ninth UCL semifinal goal.
May 5, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT
The Reds’ striker will now begin his rehabilitation towards next season after a disappointing campaign riddled with injuries.
May 5, 2015, 3:04 PM EDT
The captain came to his team’s defense, but it ended up coming out quite awkward.
May 5, 2015, 2:15 PM EDT
The Italian champions welcome the reigning European champions to Turin for the first leg of their semifinal. Follow all the action live.
May 5, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT
Thought to be on his way out, Rais Mbolhi is back with the club. For now.
May 5, 2015, 12:22 PM EDT
Oscar hasn’t appeared since his collision with David Ospina, but Dunga says the midfielder’s injury is training related.
May 5, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT
Didier Drogba is 37 years old, but still represents the best option for his role that Chelsea can buy.
May 5, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
Just four days before opening the Gold Cup, the US will host a familiar CONCACAF opponent.
May 5, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT
Newcastle appears to have lofty goals, but the prospects of bringing a Champions League striker to St. James Park while trying to stave off relegation appear grim.
May 5, 2015, 8:38 AM EDT
The 21-year-old Packwood saw his playing time significantly diminished this season, and finished the year on loan in League Two. Meanwhile, his experienced teammate Jonathan Spector is staying on.
May 5, 2015, 7:57 AM EDT
With Jose Mourinho “here to stay” Chelsea has looked to make that sentiment official.
- UEFA Champions League preview: Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich 0
- Three things we learned from Juventus vs. Real Madrid 0
- Juventus 2-1 Real Madrid: Tevez penalty lifts Juve over defending champs 3
- Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge undergoes hip surgery 0
- LIVE – UEFA Champions League semifinal: Can Juventus beat Real Madrid in Turin? 0
- Reports: Chelsea gearing up contract extension talks with Mourinho 0