Atlanta united reshaping sports scene


HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: A crowd of 45,001 gathered on Sunday, April 15. to watch Atlanta United face off against league leaders New York City FC. The upper section of the Mercedes Benz Stadium was closed for this match, but when opened, it expands the stadium’s capacity by nearly 40,000.

In front of a record-breaking crowd of 72,035 fans, Atlanta United put on a show with a 3-1 victory over DC United, a team which beat them in all three meetings last season. The crowd bore witness to many banners hoisted around Mercedes Benz Stadium, most notably one that read: “RIP bad sports town.”

This banner needed no explanation, as most Atlanta fans know they are some of the worst fans in all of sports. The fans have a fair weather reputation, responding to the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Braves recent struggles with low attendance and lack of support.

Ticket prices have plummeted for the Hawks compared to the years of the “Highlight Factory” playoff-caliber team just three seasons ago. With the Braves’ relocation to Cobb County in 2017, coupled with their dismal record last season led to a half-full SunTrust Park  on many occasions.

The Falcons seem to be the only Atlanta team fans have stood by recently, but this just proves the stereotype true. The 2016 season’s Super Bowl run spurred fans to buy tickets at steep prices and in large quantities. Falcons fans seemed to fall out of the sky and spring out of the ground. Maybe it’s the lack of a championship since the Braves’ World Series win in 1995 that has our city’s fans turning off the TV at their home teams, but Atlanta United has the potential to quickly reverse that mindset.

The soccer team, entering its second season this year, has drawn an incredible amount of support. Last season, more fans came to Atlanta United games than any other team, and the fans set single-season and single-game attendance records. The latter was, as mentioned before, broken in this season’s home opener, and that fact alone is a huge deal for this team and our city.

On top of success in the arena (literally) of attendance, the team also found its home on the field, reaching the MLS Cup playoffs in its inaugural season. Atlanta was slated to play the Columbus Crew in the first round in a win-or-go-home match. The game was in Atlanta, and very few teams had been able to overcome the massive disadvantage the environment placed on them.

In a match that lasted 120 minutes, going through both full time and extra time scoreless, Atlanta suffered an agonizing defeat on penalties. The team was out of the Cup in the first round. Incredibly, the support was unwavering. Fans stayed, cheering and clapping, offering a standing ovation to the team that had brought them so much joy in its first season. Continued support is the biggest issue fans in Atlanta have, and many expected the massive turnouts from last year to fade, writing off Atlanta United’s first season as simply an anomaly.

The fans of this city, thankfully, proved that notion wrong. The fact that fans are rallying around the team shows that they have the capability, passion and support for the city that has always seemed to be missing. Atlanta United’s introduction to our city could be the best thing to happen to its fans for a long time, but the fans’ increased support of the city is sure to spur more good things in the near future.