Last week, we saw a report from Metro US stating that Atlanta United would launch a reserve team in the USL in time for the 2018 season. It raised several questions, not the least of which being where the team would play, what it would be called, etc.
Today, that news became official. Atlanta United have announced that its new USL reserve team (yet to be named) will indeed begin play in the spring and will call Coolray Field in Gwinnett County home. Coolray Field is the home of the soon-to-be-renamed Gwinnett Braves and is located about a half-hour northeast of downtown Atlanta.
In the club’s official release, club president Darren Eales spoke about the move and the advantages it provides Atlanta United and its player development system.
Establishing a top-level Academy was the first priority for our club and while our staff has done a marvelous job in identifying and developing young players, the next step has always been to create the pathway for the 18-to-19-year-old player who needs to continue his development before competing for a starting position at the MLS level. We’ll now have the capability to develop players in our system from the time they’re 12 years-old until the minute they reach the First Team.
The new team would follow a trend of other USL teams playing at baseball fields. Nashville SC, which will also start play in 2018, will play at First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds (a Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics) before what appears to be an inevitable move to MLS. Louisville City FC, the league’s defending champion, plays at Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats (the Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliate).
All in all, it’s a great move for the club. They will have full control of their younger players and can provide an outlet for playing time without having to send them to the Charleston Battery under the team’s previous arrangement. Also, it provides another outlet for what has turned out to be a soccer-hungry market - and on top of that, cater in some way to fans who live farther outside the Perimeter. It should be a lot of fun to see this team come together over the coming weeks and months.