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MLS coming to Atlanta

You’re invited to be a part of an amazing day in Atlanta sports history. On Wednesday, April 16th there will be a soccer festival from 3 – 6 PM at the corner of Baker Street & Marietta Street just around the corner from the World of Coca-Cola.

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Coincidentally, the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, presented by Coca-Cola, will be in Atlanta about that same time. The Trophy Tour and festival has travelled the globe and is making it’s last few stops here in the United States prior to going to Brazil. Hopefully we can bring the trophy back to the States in a few months. But that’s just the begininng of the fun.

From 5-6 PM the main event, a Major announcement, will take place at Ventanas and broadcast to the soccer festival.

The after party then moves to Stats from 6 – 9 PM. It’s going to be a great day.

And what do you think of the announcements color scheme? Some believe it may be a clue to the new teams colors. I mean, was there ever a chance it wasn’t going to include Black &/or Red? I think it’s very likely we keep in the colors in the Falcon family, especially since the new stadium will feature those same colors. A few months ago when I updated the site I felt Black and Red seemed appropriate.

Do you think anything else could be announced? Maybe a team name. Could we add a Phoenix to mix of bird themed sports teams in Atlanta?

Let the countdown begin!

There have been reports, rumors, and increasingly open dialog in recent months about Arthur Blank and MLS coming to terms on an expansion franchise. Now we hear straight from Arthur Blank that while the contract isn’t signed, both parties are finalizing the details, and a formal announcement will likely take place on April 16th.

Both Doug Robertson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Jonathan Tannenwald at Philly.com reported on Sunday about the pending announcement which Mr. Blank acknowledges in the interview as being very close to accurate. You can read both articles here and here.

Take a listen from this clip starting at the 7 minute mark where Mr. Blank was on 680 The Fan with The Front Row crew of Steak Shapiro, Sandra Golden, and Brian Finneran.

 

This signature has been 8 years in the making and we’ll have to wait 3 more years before the first kick. But now that we move to the next stage in the expansion process what are you most excited about?

MLS Southeast Expansion & NASL Expansion

Major League Soccer President Mark Abbott was invited by the Carolina RailHawks, of the NASL, to visit the Triangle area and have an open discussion regarding the potential of MLS expansion.  Other attendee’s included David Downs, commissioner of the NASL, and Aaron Davidson, vice president of Traffic Sports. The event opened with a fan forum, and included an invite only meeting of local business, community, and soccer leaders. The day concluded with a media round table at WakeMed Soccer Park, home of the Carolina Railhawks.

“We are not about jumping the gun and putting cart before the horse,” RailHawks President Curt Johnson said. “Those things evolve in time.”

“What we’re trying to do is build the largest possible fan base that we can have here and let other people decide what at the end of the day will be the future. Those people will be the owners, MLS and the NASL and the fans and corporate partners.”

The fan base will now have room to grow as WakeMed Soccer Park, which is owned by Wake County, is undergoing a $6.3 million expansion that will add 3,000 seats and move the capacity up to 10,000 seats. The project is scheduled to be completed by the September of this year.

Abbott said “I’m a firm believer there are markets in the Southeast that can perform at the level of the Pacific Northwest.”

MLS has indicated that it is focused on establishing a 20th expansion team in New York. But an expansion timetable beyond 20 teams, and specifically a plan for the Southeast, has not been established according to league officials.

Abbott also continued to communicate the three key factors that MLS evaluates in potential expansion targets: an ownership group financially capable of operating the team, a stadium seating between 20,000 and 25,000, and a market that can draw roughly that many fans while generating corporate support.

So while the MLS may not have any immediate plans for expansion is seems as though the NASL will be expanding soon. In addition to Ottawa joining in 2014, Indyweek Sports reported that the NASL is poised to announce two expansion franchises within the next 30-45 days. The league has finalized contractual terms with one club and is in the latter stages of negotiations with the other. One is an existing soccer club while the other is an upstart franchise. Moreover, Davidson indicated one will be stationed in the western U.S. while the other will be located within the NASL’s current main geographic footprint.

USL side Orlando City seems to be the most logical team to join the NASL. They have a great team, strong fan-base, and MLS ambitions that would all make sense for them to step up into the next level.

In regards to the western club Downs did rattled off a few potential expansion locations including: Phoenix, San Diego, Indianapolis, and Detroit. Phoenix has shown some great promise in recent friendlies and would give the San Antonio Scorpions a nearby team to help foster a rivalry.

See this MLS article on the visit and vote for Atlanta in the poll “Which Southeast market do you think will emerge as the frontrunner for expansion?”.

Video of the Fan Forum can be located at www.carolinarailhawks.com

So what markets do you think the NASL should expanded to next?

Pro Challenge: New England Revolution vs Columbus Crew

Atlanta Pro Soccer ChallengeThe final game of the Atlanta Pro Soccer Challenge couldn’t have been played on a better day.  With temps in the low 70′s and a slight breeze you couldn’t have asked for a better day to see a game.  The crowd was much better then the first two nights but still not to the 6,000 mark that was hoped for when the tournament was first announced.

The starting lineups were compiled of mostly starters with the exception of a few players that were rested to help them get over minor injuries. The game started out pretty slow with both teams content with lobbing the ball ahead in the hopes of spring someone loose.

It wasn’t until the 31st minute that Dynamo rookie Will Bruin scored his first goal against a MLS side off poor clearance by the Revolution.  It has a great header from the top of the box and backup keeper Tally Hall didn’t have a chance.  Bruin didn’t wait long to add his second goal as he had a clinical half-volley finish on a Brad Davis cross two minutes later.  It looked like Houston was going going to run away with things when a player looked to be pushed down in the box but the ref motioned for him to get up and play on.

I’m not sure what Steve Nicol said at halftime but the Revolution came out with with a greater intensity than they played with during the first half.  There were several half chances but neither team really made the keepers work.

It wasn’t until the 88nd minute that things really got interesting again when the Revolution pulled on back on a Zach Schilawski goal.  But the comeback was cut short when the Dynamo took it down and immediately and restored their two point cushion when Alex Dixon capped the scoring to make the final score 3-1 in the Dynamo’s favor.

For what is was, a preseason tournament, I think things went okay.  You couldn’t have asked from more from the 3 MLS teams. From the play on the field to the fan interaction after the game they really did a great job.  Hopefully things went well enough in their mind that we’ll get another shot next year.

The two biggest disappointments were 1) Attendance 2) Weather.  Starting with weather you really can’t count on much help from the weather.  Sunday was perfect but Wednesday and Friday left a little to be desired.  That being said, I image the weather that will accompany most MLS games in the next two weeks won’t be much better.

By far the greatest disappointment was the attendance. Official attendance numbers weren’t released but my rough guess-timation would be as follows: Wed.  500,  Fri. 1200,  Sun. 4500.  In my opinion the two primary contributing factors were ticket cost and public awareness.

If you were a Columbus Crew fan you could buy comparable regular season single game tickets cheaper then those at the Pro Challenge.  The $50 price tag on  center circle tickets exceeds the highest price ticket the Crew offers. Over half of the stadium was available as General Admission and cost a reasonable $20.

Last but not least is the bane of every soccer fan… the void of advertising. I think if I polled soccer fans and asked what could pro soccer in Atlanta do better they would almost unanimously point to advertising.  On the flip side I think its likely one of the most difficult constraints that every front office has to deal with while working within a budget they feel is necessary to break even, or minimize losses. It’s not as if they aren’t aware but more so how to maximize the dollars they do have.  Well until you or I buy our own team or are in their shoe’s we really don’t have much of a say in how that money is spent. What we can do is make sure we get the word out to the best of our abilities with our capabilities.  Talk in up on Facebook, Twitter, or invite a friend to a game.

What else can fans do to help get the word out? What did you think about the Pro Challenge?