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MLS expansion team coming to Atlanta

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Today, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced that Atlanta has been awarded an expansion team to begin play in 2017. The new team will be owned by Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, and will play at the new NFL stadium to be built in downtown Atlanta. Blank, who acquired the Atlanta Falcons in 2002, is the co-founder of The Home Depot.

In March 2017, the new Atlanta MLS team will host the first sporting event in the retractable roof stadium that will be home to the soccer club and the Atlanta Falcons. For MLS games, the stadium will feature a more intimate configuration, with a seating capacity of 29,322. The venue will be located adjacent to multiple MARTA rapid-transit stations, providing easy access to soccer fans throughout the region.

“We are thrilled to welcome Atlanta to Major League Soccer as our 22nd team,” Commissioner Garber said. “Atlanta is one of the largest and most diverse markets in North America and has a rich tradition in sports and culture. And with Arthur Blank joining our ownership group, we are adding one of the most respected owners in professional sports. Arthur is deeply passionate about soccer and our quest to become one of the top professional soccer leagues in the world.”

Georgia has long been a hotbed for youth soccer and over the last 10 years, the Hispanic-American population in metropolitan Atlanta has doubled in size. During the last few years, crowds of more than 50,000 fans have regularly attended international soccer matches in Atlanta. Recently, nearly 70,000 fans attended the March 5 match between Mexico and Nigeria, and more than 16,000 fans attended the U.S. women’s national team victory over Russia on February 13.

"No sport has grown in popularity during the last two decades as much as soccer," said Governor Nathan Deal. "I expect game days for our new team in Atlanta to be colorful and festive events, with people from all over the state making the trip to the state capital to support the team."

Atlanta-area products include MLS All-Star and U.S. World Cup veterans Clint Mathis (Conyers), Josh Wolff (Stone Mountain) and Ricardo Clark (Jonesboro), Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson (Lilburn) and Montreal Impact striker Jack McInerney (Alpharetta). Current U.S. women’s national team star Kelley O’Hara (Fayetteville) and 1991 Women’s World Cup winner Linda Hamilton (Atlanta) are from Georgia, and FIFA Female Player of the Century Michelle Akers currently resides in Powder Springs.

"I grew up in Florida and played in quite a few tournaments up in Atlanta," said Sporting Kansas City and U.S. National Team midfielder Graham Zusi. "It is such a huge soccer community. You can’t help but think they are going to thrive there.”

Five thousand $50 deposits for Atlanta Major League Soccer 2017 season tickets will be accepted beginning today. The first 5,000 fans who put a deposit down will be eligible to purchase up to eight season tickets for the 2017 season and members of their accounts will become Founding Members of the club.

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