Atlanta is buzzing with excitement, in case you couldn’t tell. Atlanta United are in the MLS Cup Final against Portland Timbers in just their second season and to make things better, they’re playing in their own backyard. The city has been behind the team from day one, constantly breaking attendance records and turning Atlanta into the soccer capital of the United States.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be sold out this weekend, with over 70,000 people in attendance for the final, but fans will be pulling on their Atlanta United jerseys and tuning in from all over the world. One of the greatest things about Atlanta United is how they have developed not just an incredibly strong community in the city and state itself, but also outside of Georgia.
One doesn’t have to live in Atlanta, or even in the same state for that matter, to feel what this team is doing. While I haven’t been able to experience the growth of Atlanta United and soccer itself, it’s been incredible to watch from an outside perspective. When I lived in Atlanta, I never thought I’d see a soccer team not only exist in Atlanta, but garner this much attention and progress so quickly. Even in the early stages of Atlanta United’s existence, I had my doubts about what kind of impact a team would have on a city and while I was on the opposite side of the country for the unveiling and following two years, the hype has been impossible to ignore.
Seeing the buzz around Atlanta United and just how fast the sport has grown in Atlanta, despite being thousands of miles away, I still feel a part of it. On Twitter and in real life, the Five Stripes community is gargantuan and like a huge family. I know for myself, and many others scattered around the country, Atlanta United’s image as a club and their rapid progression has had nothing but a positive effect on the local and extended communities. The fans both in person and online have made it their mission to make themselves one of Major League Soccer’s most notorious fan bases and they’ve accomplished in less than two seasons.
So while Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be 70,000 strong on Saturday and the city of Atlanta is on the verge of erupting with excitement, the Five Stripes family is far larger. We can feel what you are feeling, even if we are on opposite sides of the country.
Something is different...
When I visited Atlanta back in July, it was my first time in the city in eight years. Something was different though and it wasn’t because I had forgotten what Atlanta was like, but because the city was draped in Atlanta United gear. Scarves and flags were everywhere you looked, jerseys hung on the walls of bars and restaurants and it had me thinking, “this isn’t the Atlanta I’m used to.”
In two years, a city had embraced soccer wholeheartedly and completely revolutionized soccer in the United States. Being back in Atlanta in the midst of a record-breaking season, I was able to finally experience soccer fever in Georgia and just what this club means to the fans.
Now, with a MLS Cup within touching distance, this city has a chance to experience something it hasn’t had in over two decades: success. The excitement (and nerves) are consuming fans all over Atlanta, the state of Georgia and every Atlanta United fan spread across the world. This community is bigger than most people realize and it’s ready for a reason to celebrate.