Rumors began leaking on Friday that Major League Soccer is pondering neutral site venues when the league restarts its season. Both Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio of The Athletic reported that Orlando, Dallas and Kansas City are three of the sites being considered at this early exploratory stage.
Key element of Orlando, Dallas, KC: All 3 have facilities with lots of high-quality training fields, a key to a potential neutral site start.— Sam Stejskal (@samstejskal) May 1, 2020
It's all pretty exploratory still, though. Lots of options on the table. Taking players/staff away from families one of many hurdles. https://t.co/drCd2TSmdb
It’s a bit surprising not to see Atlanta being discusses as an option for this type of restart. Between Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the team’s $60 million training facility, it would see the infrastructure is ideal for the demand of usage. Operating under the assumption that the powers that be that decide the usage of the stadium would be willing, Atlanta seems like the ideal neutral site venue. That assumption is quite huge and could be the obvious answer to why Atlanta isn’t being considered, but we have no idea if that’s the case.
In the past, Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s artificial surface has worked against it when it comes to hosting big soccer events, mainly surrounding the USMNT and USWNT. However, under these circumstances, an artificial surface is almost a necessity to keep up with the rigors of multiple games a day that will be required to pull something like this off. All three of the suggested sites operate with natural surfaces that would need constant upkeep to ensure the safety of the players.
The negative connotations of turf in soccer are obvious, but the Benz’s surface has been identified by players and coaches as being the best they’ve seen. Obviously Arthur Blank would invest a ridiculous amount of money into a massive stadium only to lay down a hazardous carpet. The turf in Atlanta is probably as good as it gets in the world and would be ideal for this scenario.
Teams will need space to train and work out during the downtime. Atlanta’s training facility is world-class with various sets of dressing rooms and six different fields for use.
It remains to be seen what format a neutral site would host, but whatever it entails, Atlanta seems like a very logical destination unless, for some reason, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is just completely unavailable. Whether it’s just a portion of the Eastern conference or an extravagant full-league venture, Atlanta has all the faculties to make something like this work.