AT­LANTA RIS­ING

Soccer 360 - - Major League Soccer - HERE ARE THE TOP THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT AT­LANTA UNITED FC.

THE NEW KIDS HAVE WON IT! IN DE­CEM­BER AT­LANTA UNITED FC REACHED THE TOP OF THE MOUN­TAIN IN MA­JOR LEAGUE SOC­CER, WIN­NING THE 2018 MLS CUP IN A 2-0 RE­SULT OVER THE PORT­LAND TIM­BERS. IN JUST TWO YEARS’ TIME THEY HAVE RISEN THROUGH THE RANKS OF MLS AND BE­COME ONE OF THE FASTEST GROW­ING CLUBS NOT JUST IN THE U.S., BUT ACROSS THE WORLD. IT HELPS THAT THE CITY HAS TAKEN A BIT OF A LIK­ING TO THEM. THE CLUB ROU­TINELY FILLS MERCEDES BENZ STA­DIUM, PACK­ING IN 70,000 FANS FOR EVEN THE MOST ROU­TINE OF MATCHES.

10 THEIR OWNER RE­ALLY LOVES SOC­CER.

Much has been said about At­lanta’s owner Arthur Blank and his for­tune. The co-founder of Home De­pot and the owner of the At­lanta Fal­cons has a net worth of about $4.7 bil­lion dol­lars. But Blank has shown him­self to be more than just a very wealthy owner: He is also a big soc­cer fan and a big fam­ily man. He met his cur­rent wife, Angela Man­cuga, through their kids who played on the same soc­cer team.

9 AT­LANTA WASN’T AL­WAYS GO­ING TO HAVE AN MLS CLUB.

At this point it seems like a given that MLS would want to go to At­lanta. But that wasn’t al­ways the case. Blank had orig­i­nally placed a bid for an MLS club in 2008. How­ever, due to a bud­get cri­sis in the Ge­or­gia state gov­ern­ment that bid was with­drawn. They filed again in 2011 and faced stiff re­sis­tance. The South­east, de­spite its dom­i­nance in col­lege soc­cer, has been per­ceived to be dis­in­ter­ested in soc­cer for many years. It was a huge gam­ble for the league to come here. It paid off.

8 IT TOOK MORE THAN TWO YEARS TO DE­VELOP THE CLUB.

The myth with ex­pan­sion teams is that they are cre­ated quickly with lit­tle plan­ning or thought put into it. While that may have been true in the past things seemed to have changed. Their Pres­i­dent Dar­ren Eales, has been with the club since 2014 and their Development Academy has played matches dat­ing back to the 2016-2017 sea­son.

7 AT­LANTA DOESN’T WIN TI­TLES TOO OFTEN.

Prior to United claim­ing the Cup the last time a At­lanta pro­fes­sional sports team had won a ti­tle was the 1996 At­lanta Braves. Since that time fans in the area had seen the Braves hold on to faded glory for too long, the At­lanta Hawks of the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion tread wa­ter, the At­lanta Fal­cons squan­der a big lead in Su­per Bowl LI and the At­lanta Thrash­ers of the Na­tional Hockey League pick up and leave. It is a city that has a proud ath­letic his­tory but re­ally strug­gled to make a dent in terms of sil­ver­ware.

6 SOME VERY IN­TER­EST­ING NAMES HAVE AL­READY PASSED THROUGH THEIR HALLS.

Set­ting up an ex­pan­sion side is often a case of do­ing a bunch of things and see­ing what sticks. At times the halls can be a ro­tat­ing door of play­ers, coaches, and per­son­al­i­ties. At­lanta’s 2017 was no dif­fer­ent. Play­ers like Ken­wyne Jones (yes, that Ken­wyne Jones), Ty­rone Mears (for­merly of Burn­ley and Bolton), and Chris Mc­Cann (for­merly of Wi­gan) have all fea­tured for the club in their first two years. Even BBC per­son­al­ity Alan Green was with the club for the first sea­son, serv­ing as their lead broad­caster for lo­cal cov­er­age.

5 THEY HAVEN’T AL­WAYS PLAYED AT MERCEDES BENZ STA­DIUM

File this un­der: Not ev­ery­thing goes ac­cord­ing to plan in year one. De­spite try­ing to have Mercedes Benz open in time for their first match ever the sta­dium wasn’t ready for kick-off in 2017. So the club had to im­pro­vise. For the first half of the sta­dium they played at Bobby Dodd Sta­dium at Ge­or­gia Tech Univer­sity. They went 6-2 at their tem­po­rary sta­dium show­ing that some­times it is not just the venue, but the play­ers on the pitch.

4 THE PUR­PLE LIONS PASSED ON MARTINO

The Tata Martino-At­lanta part­ner­ship has been a match made in heaven. But it al­most never came to be. Or­lando City SC re­port­edly were in­ter­ested in the for­mer Argentina Men’s Na­tional Team man­ager af­ter they had fired Adrian Heath. How­ever, they passed on him when they were look­ing for a coach. Two years later At­lanta and Martino have a ti­tle while Or­lando doesn’t even have a play­off win.

3 THEY PLAY THE KIDS

As pre­vi­ously men­tioned At­lanta has had a Youth Academy pro­gram for close to three years. Their club in the Development Academy has al­ready been ex­tremely suc­cess­ful, fin­ish­ing first in the South­east Di­vi­sion in the U-16/U-17 and U-18/U-19 age groups. Play­ers that have al­ready come up through their sys­tem in­clude Chris Gloster of Hanover 96, Ge­orge Bello, and An­drew Car­leton.

2 THEY DO A LOT OF WORK IN THE COM­MU­NITY.

Like any new neigh­bor At­lanta have done quite a bit to im­merse them­selves in the com­mu­nity and to be a pos­i­tive part of it. That in­cludes build­ing free sub­way soc­cer fields, five a side pitches that were de­signed to give kids un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties the chance to play the beau­ti­ful game in a safe lo­ca­tion.

1 THE CLUB HAS DREAMS BE­YOND THE CUP.

So they have won the Cup. Now what? More tro­phies and more sil­ver­ware. As op­posed to some clubs that will rest on the lau­rels of their win At­lanta seems to be build­ing for greater heights. In the im­me­di­ate fu­ture that in­cludes the CONCACAF Cham­pi­ons League, which they will be a part of in Fe­bru­ary. MLS des­per­ately wants to win that tour­na­ment and even though there will be some turnover in the squad, At­lanta looks primed to take it.

Arthur Blank

Tata Martino

Mercedes Benz Sta­dium

Alan Green

Ken­wyne Jones

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