CARSON, Calif. – The MLS community got a little bit larger on Wednesday as Commissioner Don Garber announced the creation of a club in Atlanta which will officially join the league for the 2017 MLS regular season.
The team will be owned by Arthur Blank who runs the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons and will play at a yet to be built stadium in Downtown Atlanta in the same facility as the American football team.
“Any time our league expands it’s a great thing. The Atlanta market is important for our demographics. We’re not in the south east and Atlanta is one of the major markets in the country, it should be great,” said LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “[Atlanta] is a big market. To have a national presence, you need to be in all the big markets in the country. The Southeast [United States] is an area that we’re not in. With Orlando coming in and Atlanta, and hopefully Miami, we’re going to develop a presence there.”
One player who is quite familiar with Atlanta’s growth as a soccer community is LA Galaxy and Galaxy II forward Chandler Hoffman, who was raised in Birmingham, Alabama. In his youth, Atlanta was a destination of choice for the Hoffman family for a variety of reasons and the 23-year-old believes that young soccer talent will flock to the city as they look to follow their professional dreams.
This is huge for the region. Growing up, the closest MLS team was in Texas and when you live in the Georgia and Alabama area, Atlanta is the hotbed for soccer in the South,” Hoffman told LAGalaxy.com. “It’ll give MLS a presence in the south and give the kids a team to aspire to play for and provide a home feeling.
“I really hope that it does well,” he added. “I think that it can do well, there’s a hunger for soccer in the south. Many people want to see it develop and progress in the region and more than purely an elementary level.”
But perhaps the most profound statement that the league’s expansion into Atlanta isn’t about the region, but about the growth that MLS has experienced since its inception in 1996.
“The league has our great future. The league has said that over the next 10 years, we want to be a league of choice for quality players around the world and hopefully we’re getting there,” said Arena. “The league isn’t going anywhere now. It’s here for good.”