Atlanta United: The rise of soccer in Atlanta

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Football is king in the south. I know it, you know it, we all know it, and honestly, a soccer team in Atlanta doesn’t sound like a fantastic idea. A city bathed with love for their Falcons, Braves, and Hawks; it was perceived that Atlanta United would be an afterthought. Even though soccer is the most popular sport outside of America, the beautiful game still has not found its way to the popularity of the three “American Sports.” But that hasn’t been the case in Atlanta, where there has been honestly a shocking rise of the sport in such a short time.

In just three short years, the five stripes have three trophies in their cabinet, including the most sought-after prize in the MLS — the MLS Cup Trophy. Success isn’t the only thing striking about United, though; they currently hold the top TEN home regular-season attendance records in the MLS, including the playoff attendance record from the 2018 Cup Final with 73,019 fans at Mercedez-Benz Stadium. So why the craze? Why the excitement? Simple. They’re outstanding.

Several things go into a successful franchise, but excellent coaching has kept a high standard. Tata Martino and Frank De Boer demand energy with quick passing and possession in the middle of the pitch. But high-quality players are ultimately tasked with finishing the job. Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, and others have enhanced Atlanta’s highly satisfying style from year to year. However, perhaps the primary reason to thank United’s quick rise is the rest of the city’s sports teams being so inconsistent.

I mean no offense to the Falcons, Braves, or Hawks, but Atlanta had been starving for a championship for years. The ’95 Braves were the last team to bring home a trophy before United did it in 2018. In the previous 20 years, the Falcons, Braves, and Hawks combined for 27 losing seasons, and that’s not even including the Thrashers — Atlanta’s hockey team that was complete garbage for 12 years, but I won’t bring back any of those memories. Fans of the city needed a light, and Atlanta United has provided that.

Not only is Atlanta an elite MLS franchise, but the city also embraced the culture of the game exceptionally well. It’s no secret soccer has foreign origins that are mostly unfamiliar to most American sports fans. The singing, the flag-waving, the scarves, standing the entire 90 minutes, all are uncommon to the average fan. However, United has expertly crafted a mesh between the two cultures. Singing the very famous football pump up “We Ready” before every match sung by Atlanta based rapper Archie Eversole always brings the crowd alive. Atlanta’s rendition of the Viking clap has been very popular with the fans, and of course, in the supporters section, you can always find the “bless your heart” flag-waving back and forth for 90 minutes. United, from a fanatical standpoint, converted many fans from other sports by expertly mixing the cultures and making the team our own

Not only is this our town, but it’s OUR club, and United is here to stay. If you are among those that still have not found an interest in the sport, you’re missing out. Soccer is on the rise in the dirty south.

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