It looks like Falcons owner Arthur Blank is close to buying another sports team in Atlanta, and (unfortunately for the Braves) it doesn’t look like it will be baseball but… Soccer.
Really? Yes, really.
According to the Doug Robertson and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Blank is in “significant discussions with Major League Soccer.”
Here is more from the AJC story:
Falcons owner Arthur Blank is in significant discussions with Major League Soccer about bringing an expansion franchise to the city, according to two people with knowledge of the situation but who wished to remain anonymous because the discussions aren’t complete.
Blank has long expressed an interest in a team. The recent approval of the new Falcons’ stadium accelerated the talks between Blank and the league. The construction of the stadium is scheduled to be finished in 2017 and the two parties have discussed opening the stadium with an MLS game featuring the expansion team.
NBC Sports linked to the same article and threw in this little tidbit of their own:
General consensus is that the southeastern United States is set to receive at least one franchise, as it is the only area of the country currently without a team.
At first glance, that makes a whole lot of sense, but then you might get to thinking “well there is probably a reason the southeast has been the last place the MLS has expanded…” and you’d probably be right. The southeast has a huge college football fan base and I wonder if their is enough interest in the area to support a pro soccer team.
Hockey didn’t work out, so why will soccer do any better? We won’t know for sure until it’s given a chance but there are encouraging signs all over the place.
In general, MLS attendance has been growing everywhere in the country and even overtook the NBA in 2011 as the third most popular sport behind the MLB (2) and the NFL (1). I was actually surprised by that when I found out but it’s definitely true because I saw it on the internet, right?
Another reason soccer could be successful in Atlanta is because the media (particularly ESPN) has actually decided that it is worth covering now, which will be sure to help grow interest. In a great story on Awful Announcing, Matt Yoder takes a look at “The Pinnacle of ESPN’s Soccer Revolution” and the implications that it holds for the sport.
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and it is on the rise in America where baseball and football have always been the top dogs (no Georgia reference intended). The real question however is will people from and around Atlanta choose to support it?
I certainly hope so. As a brand new Tottenham Hotspur fan (as well as covering men’s soccer at UNC) I can tell you that it is a great sport to watch and I would love to have a reason to pull for a Major League Soccer team.
What do you guys think? Can the MLS succeed in Atlanta? Why or why not?