With the Atlanta Silverbacks ceasing operations in the NASL and picking back up in the fourth-division NPSL, there will not be a professional soccer team playing in the city until March of 2017. Sure the Silverbacks are still in business after being bought back by Boris Jerkunica, but it's not the same. They are now an amateur side along the likes of Georgia Revolution.
The fourth-division is great for the development of young players, but it is not a professional environment. We won't get that back until Atlanta United kicks off in around 12 months.
Some blame the upstart MLS franchise for the demise of the Silverbacks in the NASL. Their ownership situation deteriorated and no one wanted to come in and compete with United for the market. But that isn't scaring NASL commissioner, Bill Peterson, from completely ruling out a return to Atlanta in some form.
"We haven't given up on Atlanta by any means," Peterson said. "If the right ownership group comes back with the right plan, we would love to go back there."
-Bill Peterson; Source: Empire of Soccer
How would this even work exactly? Would a new ownership group come and buy the Silverbacks and move them back to the NASL? That doesn't seem logistically realistic. The Silverbacks name has a lot of prestige in the area, but would a new owner pay Jerkunica just to get the brand?
Or is it possible that a brand new team is put in Atlanta as an NASL franchise? Would that even make sense? It would seem the only chance for another pro team to compete with MLS would be to have the diehard Silverbacks supporters behind them. Would Silverbacks fans blindly follow a new NASL team just because it's in the NASL? That seems like a stretch at this point.
As much as the NASL wants to believe that they can compete with MLS, the facts just don't back them up. They are a niche market that succeeds in markets that are desperate for pro soccer. Atlanta is a huge market, sure. But is there enough room and support for two pro teams? That remains to be seen. It would take a really ballsy owner to try and answer that question. For that reason it seems very unlikely we'll be seeing another NASL team, whether it be the Silverbacks or a new team, in Atlanta anytime soon.