Second Division team will aid in long-term player development for Academy and Homegrown Players; provide short-term loan opportunities for First Team
Atlanta United today announced plans to own and operate a second-division team that will join the United Soccer League (USL) for the 2018 season. The club’s name and crest will be released in the coming months.
“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. We also want to thank Charleston Battery for being fantastic partners over the last two years. The Battery are a first-class organization and we’ll continue to maintain a professional working relationship with the club.”
USL, which will enter its eighth season in 2018, has been a partner of Major League Soccer (MLS) since 2013. It is one of the largest professional soccer leagues in the world, with more than 30 teams across the United States and Canada.
“Atlanta United’s organization has quickly proven itself among the leaders in Major League Soccer, and we are delighted to welcome them to our already world-class ownership groups that make up the USL,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “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 USL team will provide the Atlanta United First Team with both short-term and long-term benefits, namely by continuing the pathway to the professional level for Atlanta United Academy players and the opportunity for First Team players to receive playing time on loan. Atlanta United’s current roster has 12 players with USL experience, in addition to three players who will join the team effective Jan. 1, 2018 (Lagos Kunga, George Bello and Patrick Okonkwo).
Open tryouts for the new USL team will be held on Saturday, Dec. 16 at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground in Marietta as part the American Family Dream Tryout series. Additional information for the event can be found here.
Atlanta’s USL team will train alongside the Atlanta United First Team and Academy teams at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, while the team will play its home matches at Coolray Field, the home of the International League’s Gwinnett Braves. Coolray Field opened in 2008 and will have a soccer capacity of 10,427. Ticket information will be announced at a later date.
“The Gwinnett Sports Commission is extremely excited to have Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United organization, via the USL, join our existing professional sports franchises in Gwinnett,” GSC Executive Director Stan Hall said. “Obviously, AMB Sports & Entertainment brings a level of professionalism and credibility that is second to none in the professional sports arena. Gwinnett has long been a soccer stronghold, and we expect great success as the USL and professional soccer is introduced to our area and our fans. Coolray Field and its great staff enjoys a reputation of excellence among sports venues across the country and it will provide an excellent and fitting backdrop to this new team.”
Atlanta United’s new USL club will join the previously announced Fresno FC, Las Vegas Lights FC and Nashville SC making their debut in the 2018 regular season.
The USL is one of the most prominent Division II professional soccer leagues in the world, with 30 markets in 20 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces for the 2017 season. In total, the USL reaches a population of 75 million people, fueling the growth of professional soccer across North America.
In 2016, more than $100 million were invested league-wide into stadium infrastructure to create venues that deliver an unforgettable fan and competitor experience. The USL has national media partnerships with ESPN and SiriusXM, and recently invested $10 million to create USL Productions – which includes a state-of-the-art facility that will produce and distribute nearly 500 league matches and more than 1,000 hours of original content to national partners, local affiliates, USL’s Match Center and international markets.
A growing league, the USL has more than doubled in size since 2014, with Ottawa Fury FC, Reno 1868 FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies debuting in 2017. Nashville SC is the first club set to join the league for 2018. Beyond league play, the USL regularly features international exhibitions against leading Premier League, Liga MX, and Bundesliga clubs, among others.
Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., the USL provides unparalleled club support with a growing team of more than 50 professionals across 17 departments, ranging from operations to marketing, communications and sponsorship. Follow the USL at USLSoccer.com, the USL Match Center, and on social media via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
ABOUT GWINNETT SPORTS COMMISSION
Located in Metro-Atlanta in Gwinnett County, the mission of the Gwinnett Sports Commission is to foster economic development through coordinating and developing Gwinnett’s role as a leading site for sports events involving youth, collegiate, amateur, and professional organizations. For more information, visit www.gwinnettsportscommission.com.