Soccer in America has made massive strides over the past few years. In 2017, Gallup reported that soccer was the third-most played sport in the United States behind only basketball and football. The MLS, in particular, has seen expansion teams spread the culture of the sport all over the country. In 2018, the city of Atlanta truly set the bar for years to come in terms of the success of their franchise (Atlanta United FC), sold out matches, and the rise of soccer culture within the city.
Atlanta United Built U.S. Soccer’s Most Insane Fan Base Practically Overnight
The MLS expansion franchise wrapped up a storybook season in only their second year by building a community
Atlanta United FC was founded in 2014 and played its inaugural season in 2017. On March 5th of that year, United played their first match in Bobby Dodd Stadium with over 55,000 in attendance. After a strong first season in the MLS, Atlanta United were able to carry their form into the following season in their new home, Mercedes Benz Stadium. This stadium is truly a work of art and has helped bring a true European like atmosphere to the matches. With help from their supporters such as the Terminus Legion, Resurgence, Footie Mob and the Faction, Atlanta United made their home ground a true fortress.
Atlanta United FC built their fanbase in a revolutionary way. Popular Atlanta Hip-Hop figures such as Waka Flocka Flame, 2Chainz and The Migos have been seen leading chants in the supporters section at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Having these popular musical figures attend these matches lent the MLS cultural cache.
They also built infrastructure, maintaining small fields across the city near train stations. Having numerous fields set up around the city will give younger kids more access to the sport and help get their skill level in check at an early age. A recent New York Times report surmised that the reason there are so many talented players emerging from France is due to the vast number of fields that are accessible to the youth. Atlanta is working with that ideology, and it's already making a difference.
Ultimately, it will be up to other MLS cities to create their own culture, but taking a page out of Atlanta’s book would certainly be a great place to start. Clearly, the most important aspect of reaching this potential is to focus on the community. Bringing the city together will help boost other MLS clubs but also create something more important, which is the growth and popularity of the sport in the United States. Having a strong social media presence as well as players collaborating with other leagues such as the NBA/NFL can only further help expand the sport's influence in this country.
Atlanta United's success can be seen as a blueprint for future MLS franchises, should the league decide to expand further. So the biggest question is, who's next?