Atlanta United’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer came to a heartbreaking end on Thursday night. While the pain of a penalty shootout loss will sting for a while, there are plenty of positives to take away from this season. A debut campaign full of highs and lows saw Atlanta break numerous records, setting a new standard for soccer in the United States.
Let’s start with the big one: the highest attendance in MLS regular season history. Atlanta broke the record on September 16th, 2017 with an attendance of 70,425 as they played to a thrilling 3-3 tie against Orlando City SC. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Atlanta broke their own record a month later with an attendance of 71,874 as they hosted Toronto FC and tied 2-2. With the opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta United raked in the fans and proved that soccer had finally arrived in the south.
The single game attendances weren’t enough for fans in Atlanta as they broke the record for the highest average attendance in an MLS season at 48,200 (including both Bobby Dodd Stadium and Mercedes-Benz Stadium).
That average attendance over the course of their debut season didn’t just break records in Major League Soccer, it stood out among major American sports in general. Atlanta United posted the highest average attendance of any non-NFL team in a major American sports league, beating out the L.A. Dodgers in Major League Baseball.
If people refused to acknowledge soccer in the south, Atlanta fans made them notice in the postseason. Their first round playoff game saw 67,221 turn out for the monumental occasion, breaking the original record set back in 2002.
Although the season ended in heartbreaking fashion, Atlanta fans can be extremely proud of everything the club accomplished this year. From making playoffs to filling the seats of two vastly different stadiums, 2017 was a success in many ways. This season proved that soccer is well and truly alive in Atlanta and no matter where they play, fans will flock to watch their club. Here’s to the future of Atlanta United and many more records being broken by the Five Stripes faithful.