MLS Expansion: Add Atlanta to the Mix

MLS Expansion: Add Atlanta to the Mix

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On June 20, 2008
  • Atlanta, Atlanta Expansion, Expansion Hopeful, MLS Expansion

Don Garber and Major League Soccer must love what’s going on with their league these days. Lots of cities from each coast of the US and Canada want a club in their city. It seems like each week we hear about another city or two that Garber and his buddies are visiting or are talking about in the presses.

Today, we get Atlanta.

MLS is interested in putting a team here, saying it sees Atlanta as a “tremendous” potential market that would expand the league’s footprint into the Southeast.

And Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s organization, AMB Group, is interested in bringing a team here, saying it is doing “a tremendous amount of due diligence” to see “if it makes sense.”

The league and Blank’s organization said “exploratory” discussions will continue in the months ahead, but both said it’s too early to predict whether the process will lead to a team.

One thing is clear: To get a team, a new 20,000-or-so-seat soccer stadium would have to be built in the metro area, a project that most likely would entail public funding.

We all know MLS wants a club in the southeast and if things go as planned something could happen around 2012 or 2013.

The league says future franchises will cost $40 million apiece, necessitating deep-pocketed owners, such as Blank.

Blank is approaching the MLS possibility as “a very serious endeavor,” said Dick Sullivan, one of two AMB Group executives leading the process. The Blank group has looked at land for a stadium in “about six” metro-Atlanta counties, Sullivan said, and last month met with MLS commissioner Don Garber and president Mark Abbott in New York.

“It is far too early to speculate on what will develop,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said it’s also too early to narrow the focus for a stadium to a county or municipality. The earliest a stadium could be ready, he said, likely would be 2012.

If Atlanta can get a stadium in a good downtown location, this could actually work. I’ve spent plenty of time in Atlanta over the years and I know what kind of sports market it is. When the teams do well, the fans show up. Don’t deny it Atlanta sports fan, its true. Though the Falcons do well because its the NFL.

The league finds the city and the potential owners appealing for several reasons. One, they know Blank is a very deep-pocketed person. He could easily handled the expansion fee and probably the stadium costs if he really wanted a club.

The league is handling this potential city in a smart manner by already saying they don’t want a club to play in the Georgia Dome. Yeah, it wouldn’t work, we all know that.

Blank wants a club and could be a decent owner for the league. While I’m not overly amped about a club in Atlanta, I know under the right cercumstances it could work. WIth Blank and a new stadium in a metro-area, it could work. A lot of things have to happen before the league can go there I think but I do believe Atlanta is edging out Miami as the league’s southeast expansion hopeful.