The Atlanta Lawyer June/July 2017 - Page 28

lifestyle/wellness ATLANTA UNITED FC Hon. Dax E. López Judge, State Court of DeKalb County If you are not a sports fan, you may have missed the fact that Atlanta has a new professional sports team and surpris- ingly it is a soccer team. Even though Atlanta is not considered to be much of a sports town and even less of a soccer one, the inaugural season of the Atlanta United FC, the latest expansion team in Major League Soccer (“MLS”), is prov- ing both those preconceived notions to be false. In fact, Atlanta United may soned ones. They scoured European and South American leagues looking for talent and assembled a team that boasts young, diverse players from Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Germany and Chile. They also have plenty of home grown talent including Alec Kann from Decatur and sixteen year old Andrew Carleton from Powder Springs, Geor- gia. As the team grew, the excitement among soccer fans also grew. “On March 5, 2017, Atlanta United started their season by selling out its first game at Bobby Dodd Stadium.” become the most successful expansion team in MLS history. What has turned into a city-wide phe- nomenon all started from owner Arthur Blank’s vision. In 2014, Blank wagered that Atlanta was sufficiently diverse to support a soccer club and he posted the $100 million expansion fee required by the MLS. But Blank knew for this experiment to work it would not be enough to just put together just any team, the team had to be competitive right from the start. To that end, Atlanta convinced Gerardo “Tata” Martino, a world renown coach who had coached both Argentina and FC Barcelona, to take the helm of the team. Coach Mar- tino gave Atlanta United instant cred- ibility. Coach Martino and his team then went to work to put together a strong team. They shunned established MLS ortho- doxy by focusing on young unknown players rather than older more sea- 28 June/July 2017 Blank’s wager paid off. By January of 2017, two months before the season opener, Atlanta United had already sold approximately 30,000 season tickets, which in context, represented roughly 9,000 more tickets than the average at- tendance for an MLS game in 2016. But could the team perform on the field? On March 5, 2017, Atlanta United started their season by selling out its first game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. I attended that match not knowing what to expect. What I observed was 55,000 raucous fans wearing the Atlanta black and red jerseys, t-shirts and scarves chanting non-stop and not sitting down for the 90 minutes of great soccer. One would have thought that the team had been part of the fabric of the city for decades. I could not believe this was an Atlanta sporting event. The atmosphere in the stadium was loud, the energy palpable, and the enthusiasm for the team un- wavering. It truly cannot be described, it can only be experienced. And although Atlanta lost that game 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls, the team immediately showed that its free flowing, fast paced possession soccer would be competi- tive against any of the well-established teams in the league. Since that home opener, the level of enthusiasm among Atlanta fans has only grown stronger. Atlanta United has sold out six consecutive home games. The Atlanta United jersey is one of the hottest selling jerseys in America. And Atlanta is currently in 6th place in the Eastern Division with at least RvPBB2G&6F&V6RǐFR6V6BW6FVFPFRfg2G2f'7BV"f"VPƖRRF22W6FrFRF&P666W"fBB2rFfP7V67&VF&R6V"W"v&6&B6BvBF6VRvBF2FVЦ66Ɨ6W2W7V6ǒ6RBfW0FFRW&6VFW2&V7FFVBFPVBbVwW7B)j