It’s interesting to see Atlanta represented in the country’s biggest soccer league. Let’s run through the things that happened with soccer prior to this, and how the sport developed in Atlanta.
‘Ancient roots’ and Baby Steps
The first instances of soccer came in the early 1910s. It was around 1912 when organized soccer started sprouting in the city of Atlanta. That year, a few soccer games were played in Grant Field, where a group who called themselves “The Atlanta Soccer Football Club”, decided to play against the soldiers stationed at Fort McPherson. The members started growing, but the city couldn’t find or develop a competitive organized league to play in. What this showed, however, was that interest in soccer was starting to develop in Atlanta
Fast forward to the 60s. Before Atlanta United rack up wins in a packed Mercedes Benz Stadium, there was the Atlanta Chiefs. Interestingly enough, the Kaiser Chiefs of the South African professional league were inspired by them and chose the name. This team went on to win the first professional championship for the city.
The beginnings of professional soccer in the city happened in the mid to late 1960s when a soccer star from Wales, Phil Woosnam, came to the United States to help create a team called the Atlanta Braves. They won the inaugural title, Atlanta’s first professional championship in 1968. Following that, Woosman coached a new team competing in the then-NASL (North American Soccer League): the Atlanta Chiefs. Unfortunately, along with the rest of the Chiefs organization, he was not successful in maintaining the organization and eventually became defunct.
Moments of stagnation
Then came that long silence, which felt more like an intermission. That time, Atlanta did not have an MLS team. The highest that the city had been represented was in the NASL, where the Silverbacks played. They played great soccer, but they weren’t showcased like the other professional teams in Atlanta.
Their notable achievements were winning some tournaments like the Southern Derbies and in 2007, they were runner-up in the USL First Division.
Glory and the current state
Rumors about a possible expansion team in the MLS began circulating. That gossip then became a fact when Arthur Blank, a businessman, and owner of the Home Depot and Atlanta Falcons, made his intentions known that he wanted a soccer team in Atlanta. The soccer fans in Atlanta went crazy and an incredible hype was built around this team. The initial expectations were to reintroduce the sport to Atlanta and enjoy the game. However, the players and coaches seemed to have something else in mind. It didn’t take long for Atlanta United to win the MLS Cup and take home Atlanta’s first championship in a long time.
With this brief narration of Atlanta’s relationship with soccer, it’s a good reminder for us. It is sometimes helpful to know where we came from to appreciate where we are now. Whatever team it may be, the Chiefs, Silverbacks, the United, or even the amateur and weekend leagues, it is a reminder of Atlanta’s love of soccer.