Arthur Blank

Arthur Blank

What once had been rumored is now official.  Major League Soccer is coming to Atlanta.

The yet unnamed expansion team will be the league’s 22nd franchise, and will begin play in the 2017 season.  The owner, Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL Atlanta Falcons, is reported to be paying a $70 million expansion fee.  According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the payment of that fee can be delayed until a date close to the teams first regular season game, which is expected to be in March 1017.

Blank’s name has been linked to an Atlanta-based MLS team since 2004.  Rumors have gone hot and cold since then, however, this will be the third expansion team located in the Southeast USA.  Orlando joins MLS next season with David Beckham trying to find a suitable location for a new stadium in Miami for a 2016 start.

The team colors will be red, white and gold, which were the original colors for the Atlanta Falcons.  A MLS press release indicated that fans will be allowed to suggest team names and logo.

“We are very excited to bring a Major League Soccer team to Atlanta,” Blank said when the team was announced. “We are going to build a first-class organization on and off the field that will be a source of pride for the entire community, and we believe our downtown stadium will become a destination for soccer fans throughout the Southeast for many years to come.”

The new team will share a new stadium, which is planned for downtown Atlanta, with the Falcons.  The stadium will seat over 65,000 for football, but will be configured for soccer at 29,322 seats.  The upper level seats will be drapped.  While the stadium has a retractable roof, lank has indicated that the stadium will be open for soccer games.  The stadium project has  been projected to cost about $1.2 billion, with expection of a 2017 completion date.

“Atlanta is one of the largest and most diverse markets in North America and has a rich tradition in sports and culture,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “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.”

While the new MLS team will share the stadium with the Falcons, Blank was reported as saying that the soccer games would never be played there with football lines on the playing surface.

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