For the last two years, I’ve had the honor to write about Atlanta United. Watching from afar, I’ve supported Atlanta as they rose through the MLS ranks and won the MLS Cup in just their second season of existence.
It’s been incredibly fun to watch the city of Atlanta grow into the biggest soccer city in the United States, but I knew I had to experience it for myself. The videos circulating on social media of fans in “The Gulch” and the famed supporters’ section were labelled as “must-see” by those in Atlanta, but the Mercedes-Benz Stadium itself was enticing enough.
While I wanted to see the stadium in all its glory and experience an Atlanta United game in the flesh, I was excited to see how Atlanta had embraced soccer. The city that was my home for five years had always had a strong passion for soccer, one that was noticeable long before the Five Stripes made it their home. Growing up in Atlanta and playing soccer all around the city, I could see the potential but never once thought of how an MLS team would change things for soccer in Atlanta.
Being back in Atlanta, seeing Atlanta United signs on MARTA buses and people walking down the street in jerseys, it was incredible to watch how a soccer team had grabbed the attention of a whole city and become its sports “savior.” Those of you who partake in this every week may see it as the new normal, but its still special and should never be taken for granted.
Finally, a game
Stepping into Mercedes-Benz Stadium, I was in awe looking at a stadium I could only admire on television before that day. It was far larger than I ever expected and the noise inside lived up to all the hype I’d heard since the Five Stripes moved into the stadium.
My seats, that were kindly given to me by a friend, gave us club access to see the players exit the tunnel, but also gave us an exceptional view of the game and the supporters’ section. For that one day, I was able to experience it as an Atlanta United fan rather than a writer and enjoy the game rather than trying to break it down as it happened. Unfortunately, Atlanta United lost 2-1 to FC Dallas and the frustration of the season continued, but the experience itself was second to none. Cheering and jeering with the crowd was something I’d always dreamed would be possible for Atlanta and finally having that chance, it was amazing.
While this season has been frustrating and disappointing so far, Atlanta United continue to provide an atmosphere that not many teams in soccer can offer. From an outside perspective, the hype is real and the city’s frustration is a sign that they care about this team just as much as other sports teams in Atlanta. I had the privilege to interact with Atlanta United fans all over the stadium and city, making it a truly memorable experience and one that I’ll cherish for a long time.
Atlanta is for real when it comes to soccer. Despite what others say, it really is the soccer city of America and I’m incredibly grateful that I was able to finally witness it first-hand.