Despite not kicking off for another two years, Atlanta has already assembled an impressive front office. We won't be able to assess the quality of Atlanta's management until a few seasons into the regime, but on paper they have struck the right balance of committed ownership, experienced top-level executives, as well as recognizable former players.
Let's take a look at those tasked with making MLS Atlanta a success:
Owner: Arthur Blank
Blank is the owner of the yet-to-be-named MLS Atlanta team. He is most known as one of the co-founders of Home Depot and has been the owner of the Atlanta Falcons since 2002. The Falcons have experienced one of the most successful eras in franchise history under Blank's ownership. Blank provides the financial tools to make Atlanta a success. While with the Falcons, he has shown a commitment to quality. He hasn't been one to skimp out and go the cheap route on his projects. Most notable and relevant is the upcoming new Atlanta stadium, which will cost upwards of $1.3 billion and house both the Falcons and the MLS team. The new facility was designed with soccer in mind. It will feature a retractable roofing mechanism to provide a more intimate atmosphere, adjustable seating in the lower corners to accommodate a full sized pitch, as well a commitment to never having a field with gridiron lines. Blank's first big hire was to appoint the President of the Club, which brings us to...
Team President: Darren Eales
Eales is the first President of MLS Atlanta and brings the hands-on experience of running a top-flight global club. Having worked at West Bromwich Albion previously, Eales' best experience was as executive director for Tottenham, a regular top finisher in the English Premier League. At Tottenham, Eales managed and oversaw all major aspects of the club. An Englishman, he even has connections to the American game. Darren played in the Ivy League with Brown University and was named both the Ivy League Player of the Year and an All-American in his senior season. I met Eales at a meet-and-greet event in November and he was extremely personable and hung out with the crowd for the entire evening. He truly wants to build this club from the ground up. A great hire.
CFO: Rob Geoffroy
Geoffroy is the least known on this team, though that isn't an indication of his experience working with a big name club. He will serve as the Chief Financial Officer of MLS Atlanta, as well as Vice President of Finance for AMB Sports & Entertainment, Arthur Blank's personal company. An in-house promotion, Geoffroy held the position of Vice President of Finance for the Falcons since 2006. This position looks handpicked as Geoffroy has been alongside Blank for nearly a decade and also served as CFO for Blank's short lived Arena Football project, the Georgia Force. While little is known about him, the selection looks to be in safe and secure hands.
Technical Director: Carlos Bocanegra
If Blank, Eales, and Geoffroy are the safe picks, Bocanegra is the celebrity selection in his role as Technical Director. Most fans will recognize Bocanegra as the experienced defender who played across Europe and MLS. He was always a crowd favorite, especially for his role with the United States Men's National Team as captain. He received over 100 caps for his country and captained the squad during their famous run to beat Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup, as well as the 2010 World Cup. On the field, Bocanegra was always a vocal and willing leader. Hopefully those same attributes will carry over into the office in his role. He'll oversee player development, scouting, and academy programs. This will be Bocanegra's first managerial role, so it will be interesting to see if the former player can flourish in his new role.
Atlanta's office lineup is about as well-reputable and star-studded as any in MLS, despite being two years out from playing a match. Arthur Blank has put together a crew that says this club will be aspirational in what they want to achieve. This doesn't look like a side project for Blank. It's yet to be determined how Carlos Bocanegra will translate as a technical director, but it's hard not to like the management team the club has put together.