Over the weekend, Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald reported that Atlanta would be announced as the 22nd MLS franchise. (They would be 22nd MLS team because David Beckham and MLS have not officially announced Miami as an expansion team, but rather only exercised his ownership clause. Tannenwald’s sources reported and others quickly confirmed later that April 16 seems to be the announcement date. On Tuesday, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank spoke on 680 The Fan (Atlanta) and confirmed that he is in talks with the league over an expansion franchise.
“The answer is yes. … We’re in the very final stages of doing our agreement. We hope to have an announcement this coming week,” Blank told 680 The Fan (Atlanta).
It has been reported that a potential MLS team would play at the Falcons news stadium, which is set to be finished in 2017. The new stadium is located next to the Georgia Dome. Blank spoke about some specific stadium details while on the show.
“We think it’s a tremendous fit for Atlanta from a variety of standpoints,” Blank said. “Our new stadium is being designed to accommodate potentially the World Cup and international soccer games with the roof expanding. The roof, obviously, is retractable, which means we can open and close it to any level we want to. The field will be designed to accommodate soccer. We’re enthused about that. We think the fan support in Atlanta will be incredible. An urban, downtown soccer stadium will be a tremendous hit in Atlanta.”
As Blank mentioned, the soon to be built stadium can be reconfigured and sectioned off for MLS and other soccer games. With the United States looking to possibly host the 2026 World Cup, another adequate stadium to accommodate international soccer games effectively and would only bolster the nations chances. Furthermore, by having a retractable roof, it is very possible that rain would not play a factor into any of the matches. Likewise during the dog days of Summer, stadium officials can close the roof in an effort to keep players and spectators comfortable.
While Blank did not confirm the April 16 announcement date, he did allude that something special could happen in April.
“We’re excited about it,” Blank said. “We have an event planned for, hopefully, the middle of April in downtown Atlanta that will be very unique and special. It’ll be a tremendous celebration of the sport.”
For now, MLS circles are left dreaming about what a franchise and a strong supporter section could look like in Atlanta. It is currently the largest US city without a MLS side. Lastly, with the official addition of Orlando City SC in 2015 and the likely entrance of Beckham’s Miami franchise in 2017 or 2018, MLS is setting up a nice South East rivalry that could turn out to be as great as the Cascadia teams- Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, and Vancouver Whitecaps.
Phil Naegely is creator and CEO of Stoppage Time Soccer