Atlanta United has done pretty much everything right so far. They're highly invested in their academy, they seem motivated to tackle the Latin American market, and they're doing whatever it takes to make sure they have a successful franchise both in the long and short term. There's one important area of the soccer landscape that we haven't heard anything from the team about yet. That's women's soccer.
Currently women's soccer is a massive talking point in the sports world. The World Cup champion United States Women's National Team is suing their own federation for gender-specific wage discrimination. Equality is a major issue in the soccer world. The men's game garners the majority of the spotlight, while the women fight tooth and nail just to get some sort of recognition.
While it's understandable that Atlanta United would focus all their efforts on making sure their senior team is in the best position to succeed once it enters the league in 2017, sooner or later questions will be asked about their involvement in the women's game. Like it or not, Atlanta United will be looked at as a big market team in MLS. Big market teams have expectations on them from the outside and within. Eventually, whether it's year one or later on in their existence, fans will demand that Arthur Blank and his team get involved with the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) like a few MLS teams have already.
Currently three MLS franchises also own NWSL teams outright. The Portland Timbers have the Portland Thorns, the Houston Dynamo have the Houston Dash, and Orlando City SC have the Orlando Pride.
Using simple logic, Atlanta United as a franchise can be compared to almost directly to Orlando City in location and fan support. While Orlando City has physical ticket sales to prove their demand, Atlanta has set the record for most season ticket deposits by an Expansion franchise in MLS history.
On October 20, 2015 -- just seven months into their inaugural MLS season -- Orlando City announced that they would be launching an NWSL franchise in 2016. OCSC revealed in December that the Pride had sold 2,500 season tickets, of which around one-fourth were Orlando City season ticket holders. This proves that high demand for an MLS team's tickets can correlate to a substantial amount of demand for a NWSL team's.
Orlando and Atlanta will likely be heated rivals come 2017, it only makes sense to extend that rivalry to all possible outlets. Having a successful NWSL team would show that Atlanta can do whatever Orlando can and hopefully better.
Atlanta United have more resources and arguably a bigger market than Orlando has. It only makes sense for Arthur Blank and his team to strongly consider the possibility of following Orlando's lead and launching their own team (assuming the NWSL will have them). Blank has been strong in his stance against anti-LGBT laws. This would be his chance to be an advocate for the women's soccer game in America. Sure, American football is where he's made his name as an entrepreneur in Atlanta, but this would be his chance to really make an impact on an important issue such as growing the women's game.
There's not enough evidence to declare the city of Atlanta and its surrounding areas a soccer hotbed. But there's also some to suggest that there's vast amount of talent in the Georgia/Southern region. Just last month, the USWNT had three players from the state of Georgia -- Morgan Brian, Kelley O'Hara, and Emily Sonnett -- on their 20-player roster for the CONCACAF Championships. That's strong evidence of good player development from the state of Georgia.
So, the players are here and need a place to play. The demand for a team is likely there from supporters. It seems the logical thing for Atlanta United to do is to invest in women's soccer.
The club has done great work so far in tackling almost every aspect of starting from scratch. Obviously setting up the team for long term stability and success if top priority. But, once all the important facets have been secured, the last frontier for them to reach is the women's game. Atlanta and its soccer fans deserve a women's team to support and Arthur Blank is the man that can make it happen.