As Atlanta United ramps up towards 2017, expectations for the club continue to grow. With latest reports indicating plans for an extensive youth academy, United has certainly been proactive about laying the foundation for the fledgling club. While speaking about the academy, Arthur Blank made comments in reference to Atlanta's pace compared to the typical MLS expansion schedule.
"We’re bringing in everybody earlier than we have to based on the MLS timetable because you want to get them comfortable with the market, and understanding what’s going on here," Blank told SBI. "Listening to everybody and getting a good sense of the soccer fabric in Atlanta.
Quite true, Atlanta has been ahead of the game in terms of getting things done. From assembling a front office, to laying out a plan for the training grounds and academy, to even generating fan support, Atlanta is at the forefront of the next wave of MLS expansion.
Speaking of fan support, according to our friends over at The Mane Land, Orlando City has set the record for average attendance in a club's expansion season. This is quite remarkable and also sets the benchmark which Atlanta will aim to beat.
Orlando City's average of 32,847 fans per game is an MLS expansion season record.— The Mane Land (@TheManeLand) October 17, 2015
Atlanta has quietly secured a massive number of season ticket deposits. At latest tally, 26,000 fans have paid a $50 deposit to the club to secure seats. The most telling part of the deal is that we're still a year and a half away from the team taking the field for that first game. It's quite easy to envision the number of deposits skyrocketing as awareness and excitement for the new club builds closer to kickoff. Add in the fact that the vast majority of league matches will be played on the weekend, and Atlanta could easily push for a new expansion average attendance record.
It is true that Atlanta United faces stiffer competition in their local sports market than Orlando. Aside from the Lions, Orlando's only other top-flight offering is the Magic, while Atlanta has the Falcons, Braves, and Hawks. It will be a more crowded market for AUFC to attempt to gain a foothold, and yet those ticket deposits can't be ignored.
As it stands for most matches, the club will utilize a downsizing mechanism at Mercedes-Benz Stadium enclosing the upper level seating, similar to BC Place. This will provide a more intimate feel at the massive new facility, but if current deposit trends continue, the club might not need to use that mechanism for the first stretch of games.