Atlanta goes for a rare sports title in MLS Cup final with United
A city that has known plenty of sporting heartbreak is one win from a championship.
It sure has been a while. Atlanta hasn’t won a major professional title since the Braves captured the 1995 World Series . A 2-year-old soccer team has a chance to end the drought when Atlanta United hosts the Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup final Saturday night before an expected crowd of 73,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“I was texting the mayor the other evening,” United owner Arthur Blank said. “She’s already planned on a parade, so she’s ahead of me. We haven’t a parade in Atlanta, a sports-related parade, since 1995. God willing and play willing, we'll be in position to do that again next week.”
The Braves are recognized by many as Atlanta’s only true sports champions – and even their accomplishment came with a giant caveat. The team won an unprecedented 14 straight division titles, but became known mostly for its postseason failures, losing four times in the World Series and every other year but one in the earlier playoff rounds.
Blank was on hand for perhaps the city’s biggest disappointment. He also owns the NFL Falcons, who reached the Super Bowl for just the second time in franchise history in 2016, only to squander a 25-point lead late in the third quarter. The New England Patriots rallied for a 34-28 victory in overtime.
“I’m as excited about this as I was about the Super Bowl,” Blank insisted, before quickly adding, “I don’t want to end up with the same feeling we had several years ago.”
Since big-league sports arrived in Atlanta more than five decades ago, the only other team that can claim a major title is, in an interesting twist, a soccer club.
The Atlanta Chiefs won the championship in the North American Soccer League’s very first season in 1968 , but that event is remembered by only the most devoted fans. The Chiefs lasted a total of 10 seasons over two incarnations, but both times went out of business for lack of support. The entire league expired after the 1984 season.