Blank, Atlanta officially a part of MLS

Perry McIntyre

Arthur Blank has made yet another splash. At a gathering downtown Wednesday afternoon, Blank, MLS commissioner Don Garber and Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed arrived in a black helicopter before addressing a star-studded crowd to announce Atlanta’s entrance into the MLS. The team, the league’s 22nd franchise, will begin play in 2017.

“This is an exciting day for Atlanta, it’s an exciting day for the city, state and region,” said Blank. “It’s also an exciting day for our family of businesses. And for my family, most of which is gathered here in the first couple of rows.”

Blank’s family was a major reason why this more than 10-year project of bringing MLS soccer to the area was so important to him. His grandkids and his fiancé Angela’s children are heavily involved in the sport. He and Angela met at one of their kids’ soccer games. But Blank made it clear he wanted to start a team in Atlanta for the fans as well, and that they would be a big part of shaping the framework and personality of the new franchise.

“We will do everything we can to focus on the fans to make sure we create the right atmosphere to make sure that, technically, we have the best players (and) the best coaches,” Blank stated.

The Falcons owner mentioned that the color scheme would likely be red and black with some gold mixed in, but that the team logo and nickname would be chosen by the fans.

Blank was adament that winning is of the utmost importance to his new franchise.

“We want to put a winning team on the field,” he said. “We understand that in all sports, winning and losing does matter and we want to win. You’ve got my commitment to do that.”

“I promise you, whatever resource it’s going to take, not only on the field but off the field, you have that commitment from me,” he said.



There was a consistent theme throughout the press conference regardless of who was speaking: the respect everyone seemed to have for Blank and his drive to get an MLS team to the city of Atlanta. League commissioner Don Garber spoke about the many years he and Blank discussed bringing a franchise to Atlanta.

“I am so pleased to be here. After so many years of speaking with Arthur and the Falcons to welcoming Arthur and the city of Atlanta to Major League Soccer,” Garber said. “This is such a historic day for the city, for the sport, for the state of Georgia and, of course, all of us who are engaged with the sport in North America.”

Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed revealed that he depended on Blank for much more than just owning sports teams. Reed joked that he has a “Bat-Phone” that goes straight to Blank whenever he has nowhere else to turn.

“When Atlanta has a need, when Atlanta has somebody that we need to lean on, when Atlanta needs help, the red phone in the mayor’s office goes to Arthur Blank- ‘Batman’,” said Reed with a laugh.



There are a lot of factors the MLS looks at before awarding franchises to cities, including the potential owner(s). Garber had no doubts Atlanta has what it takes to host a franchise. The new stadium was the cherry on top.

“We’ve always believed that the success of MLS would be driven by visionary, committed owners, world-class stadiums, best-in-class administrators and very ethnically diverse cities, and a very passionate group of folks like the groups we have here,” said Garber. “We have that and more here in the city of Atlanta.”

Garber also said that Atlanta had been considered for many years as a potential MLS city. The rapid growth, diversity of population, history of hosting sports franchises and popularity of youth soccer in the area contributed to the MLS’s interest. But one of the main factors it took to finally close the deal was the Falcons’ new stadium, which is scheduled to open in 2017.

In March, the Georgia Dome hosted a Mexico-Nigeria “friendly” that drew nearly 70,000 fans. Blank, Garber and Reed each mentioned how impressive that turnout was for soccer in Atlanta. Garber said that while he doesn’t expect that kind of turnout for most MLS games, it does show signs of a soccer-mad city.

“I don’t think there’s a 100 percent link between international friendlies and MLS success, but we do cede every market prior to coming in (to the MLS) with international games and … if you can’t be successful in those games, you absolutely will not be successful at major League Soccer.”

The stadium will host MLS games on its artificial surface with only the lower deck available to fans, an amount of around 29,000 seats. Blank made it a point to mention that the field would not have any lines from football games painted on it, signaling his commitment to treating the new MLS team with the same respect he gives his NFL franchise.

The importance of the announcement to the city could be measured by who showed up for the official announcement. Current Falcon players Osi Umenyiora and Sean Weatherspoon were there as was former Falcon Alge Crumpler. Former Hawk Dikembe Mutombo, who stands more than seven-feet tall, was easy to spot in the crowd.

Atlanta Silverbacks manager and technical director Eric Wynalda, a U.S. men’s national Team legend, also was on hand to lend his support to the MLS in Atlanta. Alexi Lalas, another USMNT legend, was the M.C. of the press conference while CONCACAF, the world soccer region the United States is a member of, was represented by its president, Jeffrey Webb. Frank Poe, meanwhile, represented the Georgia World Congress Center.

The new team’s official supporter group, the Terminus Legion, was on hand rocking the building with drums and loud chants, including several that honored Blank. Team scarves and MLS soccer balls were handed out and a mini festival for fans took place across the street.

Blank became wistful towards the end of his speech, as he mentioned his family in the front two rows of the assembly. It was clear to all that Atlanta’s new MLS franchise is one of his proudest accomplishments and will be a top priority in the coming years.



Tags: , , , ,

One Response to “Blank, Atlanta officially a part of MLS”

  1. Dream League game
    October 10, 2014 at 1:50 am #

    WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for
    dream leagie soccer

    Visijt my homepage :: Dream League game

Leave a Reply