Atlanta United have not played a match in their existence yet and the club is already getting massive amounts of praise for the way its being run.
Goal.com published their nominees asking who the most influential person (or people) in American soccer in 2016. Most of the list wasn’t too surprising as it featured a who’s who of American soccer from U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati to the whole U.S. women’s national team player pool. However, one name that stands out on their list is Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank.
Blank was one of six nominees for the honor listed by the site. Here’s what they had to say about his inclusion:
The owner of MLS expansion side Atlanta United, Arthur Blank has already shaken up the U.S. soccer landscape . Not only did he lockdown a home for the team prior to the opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium midway through the 2017 season, he also brought on former Argentina national team and Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino to lead his team on the field. Atlanta United may not be a title contender in its first year, but the roster is shaping up nicely.
You’ll have to forgive hardcore MLS followers for being skeptical of Blank’s involvement with the league. NFL owners like New England’s Robert Kraft have left a bad taste in people’s mouths with the way they’ve disregarded their teams and refused to spend the required money to grow their franchises both on and off the field.
Blank’s commitment to making Atlanta United a top notch soccer franchise from day one is finally being recognized across the soccer world. No expense is being spared at any level of the club. The benefits of his vision are already being seen as the club have formed one of the league’s best academies in record time. The estimated $60 million being poured into building a team headquarters/training facility will ensure that the future of the club will only continue to prosper.
The youth level is on the tip of the iceberg. Bringing in an experienced executive like Darren Eales was another stroke of genius. Handing over the keys to someone who can fulfill his vision was the smartest thing he could’ve done. So far, Eales has succeeded at every turn, hiring guys like Carlos Bocanegra, Paul McDonough, and Tata Martino to get the first team up and running. Less than three months from First Kick and United’s roster has the look of a contender in their first year.
While the club are far from a finished product, they are well on their way to becoming a pillar for MLS to stand on. This is all thanks to Arthur Blank’s commitment. It’s nice that he’s getting the recognition around the American soccer community already.