Monday, February 06, 2006

Is MLS getting ready to invade Atlanta?

It seems officials from Major League Soccer are planning another quiet visit to the grand city of Atlanta this month. These visits, which started last year, are to see how much interest there is for soccer in the area and to find a local ownership group. This group needs to be able to afford the $15 million franchise license, $2 million in yearly salaries and $85 - 150 million for a stadium.

The article nails some of the most attractive elements of hosting a team in Atlanta:

Part of Atlanta's appeal is "strong corporate support for sports," said Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Sports Council.

Add to that a strong youth soccer league here, a top 10 media market, and one of the fastest-growing Hispanic populations in the country, and it appears Atlanta has an ample base for soccer.

Still, they do point out the failures of past soccer teams the Atlanta Chiefs and the pro-female team the Atlanta Heat. But thankfully they point the spotlight on USL team the Atlanta Silverbacks.

The Silverbacks are building a 2,800 seat soccer facility and are sponsored by Delta, Western Union and grocery chain Kroger.

The lack of MLS teams in the Deep South is very striking. If the MLS was going to jump into this part of the country, Atlanta would seem the most logical choice as it is pretty much the hub of the South.

If you look at the list of five cities Major League Soccer spokesman Dan Courtemanche says the league is scouting (Atlanta, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Diego), you can see that there is a lot of good competition out there. Atlanta has a lot going for it, but I'm going to guess that a lot of the decision will come down to finding local investors for the club.

One interesting question Atlanta would bring up is what year to use in the name. The town was founded in 1843, but was called "Marthasville," after the daughter of the governor of Georgia. The name was changed to "Atlanta" in 1845, but the town was not incorporated as a city till 1847. Maybe the "Atlanta Marthas" would work?


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