Citing the franchise’s promise to be as competitive as possible from Day 1, Atlanta United announced today the team will begin its inaugural campaign in 2017 playing a normalized schedule with a balanced slate of home games across the MLS season. To that end, the club will open play in the spring of 2017 at Georgia Tech’s historic Bobby Dodd Stadium, with home matches played there until Mercedes-Benz Stadium is ready for play next summer. Previously, the club had planned to play its first three months entirely on the road.
“Our aim is to build a championship caliber soccer club and to be as competitive as we can from the start,” said Darren Eales, president of Atlanta United. “With the amount of excitement we’ve seen for the club, especially over the past few months as our season ticket sales have continued to rise, it was evident that playing at home for the first part of the season was in the best interest of our fans and our players. We’re very pleased that we are able to open the 2017 MLS season at Bobby Dodd Stadium.”
Last week, Atlanta United named Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino the club’s first head coach. Martino was briefed on the decision to play a balanced schedule by Eales during contract negotiations and the former Argentina national team coach endorsed opening home play at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Record-setting interest in the team from fans across metro Atlanta was a key factor in the decision. The club recently announced MLS-record ticket sales for an expansion team when it crossed the 22,000 threshold. Atlanta United has also staked claim to having one of the largest supporters sections in MLS, with just over 3,000 tickets sold to date.
“The support for our team has been nothing short of phenomenal and we’re thrilled to play in front of our passionate supporters three months earlier than we had planned to,” continued Eales. “Our fans will now see our team early in the MLS season and enjoy two home openers – our first-ever game in Atlanta at Bobby Dodd Stadium in the spring and the first game in the spectacular Mercedes-Benz Stadium next summer.”
Construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium continues to progress rapidly, with completion of the highly-complex roof steel structure scheduled for completion on October 14. Removal of several cranes and work on the lower bowl will accelerate shortly thereafter and several other areas of the stadium are already in completion stages.
Steve Cannon, chief executive officer of AMB Group which is the parent company of Atlanta United, said the company expects to begin moving into offices and warehousing areas at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as early as April of 2017 and take control of the rest of the building in phases throughout the spring and summer. Atlanta United will debut in Mercedes-Benz Stadium later in the summer when the building is ready for play and according to the MLS schedule, which is expected to be unveiled in January of 2017.
“The excitement and anticipation for Atlanta United to begin play in Atlanta is evident every time we interact with the supporters so we are very pleased to partner with Georgia Tech to get our home schedule started,” said Cannon. “We’re equally pleased with the on-going progress at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It is going to be an outstanding venue for our team and an incredible customer experience for the supporters. We look forward to announcing more in regards to the grand opening events schedule early next year.”
Atlanta United supporters can learn more about the team’s plans at Bobby Dodd Stadium and the team’s opening season by visiting: //www.atlutd.com/tickets/faq. The team will announce more details about its inaugural season over the next several months in the lead up to taking the pitch for the first time in March 2017.
ABOUT ATLANTA UNITED
Atlanta United brings Major League Soccer to the Southeast as the league’s 22nd franchise. The club will celebrate its inaugural season in 2017 and will play in the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium currently under construction downtown. Atlanta United is owned by one of the city’s most influential businessmen and philanthropists, Arthur M. Blank, and is led by club President Darren Eales. For more information about Atlanta United, including how to become a Founding Member visit: www.atlutd.com/tickets, and follow @ATLUTD.
Carlos Bocanegra, Atlanta United Technical Director
“Opening at Bobby Dodd Stadium will be beneficial for our players on many levels. It's challenging physically and mentally to play consecutive games on the road. Starting the beginning of the season at home will give our players the opportunity to get acclimated to Atlanta and settle into a consistent training regimen, which is especially important as an expansion team."
Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, Atlanta United Head Coach
“It’s very exciting to know we’ll be playing in front of our home fans much sooner than expected. From a competitive standpoint, having a more balanced schedule will give us the best chance at success in our inaugural season."
Paul Griffin, Georgia Tech Interim Director of Athletics
“Georgia Tech is proud and honored to partner with Arthur Blank and the Atlanta United and to welcome United and their fans to Bobby Dodd Stadium for the beginning of their inaugural season. We are excited to add Major League Soccer to the long list of world-class events that have been hosted at Bobby Dodd Stadium over the last 103 years."