By Scott Adamson
Atlanta United FC became the biggest success story in Major League Soccer history this year, with an average attendance of 48,000 per game and a quality team that made the playoffs in its first year of existence.
On Tuesday, the organization took another step forward in building its brand.
The United Soccer League, which has designs on becoming one of the premiere second division soccer circuits in the world, announced that it will field a team in 2018 owned and operated by Atlanta United.
The club will play at Coolray Field in Gannett, Ga., which is home of the Gwinnett Braves International League baseball team. Seating capacity for soccer will be 10,427.
“Atlanta United’s organization has quickly proven itself among the leaders in Major League Soccer, and we are delighted to welcome them to our world-class ownership groups that make up the USL,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a statement. “The caliber of organization that has been assembled by Arthur Blank and his team has raised the bar for professional soccer in the United States, and their addition to our league is another step toward the USL’s goal of becoming one of the best Division II professional soccer leagues in the world, on par with the English Championship, Liga Adelante and 2. Bundesliga.”
The team’s name and logo will be released in the coming months.
All MLS franchises except Minnesota are affiliated with USL teams, with four (LA Galaxy II, New York Red Bulls II, Portland Timbers II and Seattle Sounders FC II) bearing the name of their parent club.
Atlanta already has a strong academy system, and in 2017 benefitted from a working relationship with the USL’s Charleston Battery.
“This is a great opportunity for our club’s long-term success to be able to bridge the gap between our best in class academy and our First Team,” Atlanta United President Darren Eales said. “Establishing a top-level academy was the first priority for our club, and while our staff has done a marvelous job in identifying and developing young players, the next step has always been to create the pathway for the 18-to-19-year-old player who needs to continue his development before competing for a starting position at the MLS level.
“We’ll now have the capability to develop players in our system from the time they’re 12 years-old until the minute they reach the First Team.”
Louisville wins USL title
Cameron Lancaster’s goal broke a scoreless draw in the 88th minute to give Louisville City FC a 1-0 victory over Swope Park Rangers in the 2017 USL Cup on Monday. The season finale was played in front of a sellout crowd of 14,456 at Slugger Field in Louisville; it was the second highest-attended USL Cup in the league’s history.
Speedy Williams crossed the ball into the center of the penalty area and Lancaster headed the ball into the right corner of the net for the game winner.
Goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh earned the clean sheet for the victors.