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Atlanta: The Rising Epicenter of U.S. Soccer.

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

Roger Hampel

Atlanta The Rising Epicenter of U.S. Soccer.
Atlanta The Rising Epicenter of U.S. Soccer.

It's not just peaches that Georgia's capital city is becoming known for. Over the past decade, Atlanta has experienced a remarkable transformation, evolving into a major hub for soccer in the United States. The catalyst behind this change? An ambitious vision, the passionate embrace of the sport by Atlantans, and a few key individuals with deep pockets and even deeper commitments to the game.

Historically, the Southeast region, where Atlanta is located, wasn't earmarked as a fertile ground for soccer. Post the 2001 season, soccer teams like the Miami Fusion and the Tampa Bay Mutiny had folded, leading to reservations about the sport's potential in the area. The prevailing sentiment, as MLS commissioner Don Garber admits, was that soccer might not find much traction in Atlanta.

Enter Arthur Blank, the billionaire owner of the Atlanta Falcons. He saw a different future. When MLS was contemplating expansion in the mid-2000s, Blank approached Garber with a proposal. With plans for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the pipeline, Blank envisioned it not just as an architectural marvel but as a centerpiece for soccer in Atlanta. And while many had their reservations, Blank's unwavering belief and persistence have paid off.


Now, thanks to Blank's significant financial contributions, U.S. Soccer has announced its plans to construct its very first national training center in Atlanta. A milestone development, this will also lead to the federation shifting its headquarters from Chicago to Atlanta.

Garber touts this move as "one of the most important projects in the history of soccer in America," highlighting the passion and growing sports community in Atlanta. The city's recent designation as a 2026 World Cup host city and the fervor of over 70,000 fans attending an Atlanta United game demonstrate the growing love affair between Atlanta and soccer.

Yet, this rising tide hasn't been without its challenges. The U.S. men's and women's teams have historically lacked a dedicated national training center. This put the U.S. behind many nations, including the likes of Mexico and even Bolivia, in terms of infrastructure.

But Atlanta's vibrant sports landscape, rich with teams like the Atlanta Braves, the Falcons, and the Atlanta Hawks, hasn't deterred the growth of soccer. The groundwork laid by Atlanta United, especially their triumph in the MLS Cup a year after joining the league, is a testament to soccer's promising future in the region.

With a rich history of soccer tracing back to the Atlanta Chiefs in 1967, the city's current trajectory suggests a bright future for the sport. The strong foundation in youth soccer and infrastructure developments signal Atlanta's ascent in the soccer world.

Blank captures the sentiment beautifully, recognizing soccer as a vital part of Atlanta's identity. He believes that the sport not only fosters athletic prowess but also embodies values that resonate deeply with the city's ethos.

Atlanta Mayor, Andre Dickens, sums it up, envisioning Atlanta as "the capital of soccer in this nation." In his words, the move of the federation’s headquarters is not just an investment in infrastructure but a declaration that Atlanta stands as a city of diverse culture, immense opportunity, and, undeniably, a city passionate about soccer.

Based on: The Athletic

FOT: Atlanta United FC (via Instagram)


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