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Fans: Atlanta ready for Major League Soccer

4:59 PM, Sep 14, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Could Major League Soccer debut in Atlanta with the new stadium in 2017?  For years Arthur Blank has made it known he'd like to field an MLS team.  Now the ingredients could be coming together.  Blank's foundation confirmed to 11Alive they are in talks about an MLS team.

"We are in the early stages of discussions with MLS regarding an expansion team in Atlanta," said Blank Foundation Chief of Staff Kim Shreckengost.   "We hope over the next few months to make a determination as to whether we would own and field a team in the new stadium."

Atlanta already has a professional soccer team-The Silverbacks.  The Division two team just finished a worst to first season.  They're hosting a championship game on November 9 at their 5000 seat stadium. 

"Nine games so far this year and we've sold out over half of those," said General Manager Andy Smith.

"The Silverbacks have already proven that professional soccer can make it on the next level, but the next step is that larger capacity."

Smith has worked for three Major League Soccer teams.  If MLS comes to town, the Silverbacks could move up, as second tier teams have done in four other cities.  He said the ingredients needed for a successful MLS franchise are a diverse population, a wealth of adult players and fans, and corporate sponsorship.  He said Atlanta has all of those.

929 the Game's Marc Ryan said there are plenty of fans out there, even if the TV coverage doesn't reflect it. 

"More people attend MLS games per game than the NBA. People are floored when they hear that number initially," Ryan said.  "The biggest thing MLS in Atlanta has always needed is someone with deep pockets who supports the idea of soccer to come forward, and they've gotten that with Arthur Blank."

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