American soccer fans in Atlanta will finally have a Major League Soccer team to call their own. Atlanta United will be owned by Arthur Blank, famed owner of the Atlanta Falcons and co-founder of Home Depot, and will share the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the Falcons. As excitement builds for opening day, here are five things Atlanta United fans can look forward to in 2017:
- Gerardo “Tata” Martino. Fans of international soccer may recognize this name; Martino is the former head coach of both Barcelona and the Argentinian National Team. His high profile managerial career and South American connections have helped Atlanta bring a number of exciting players to the club. Expect Martino’s teams to press high and play fluid, attacking soccer.
- Miguel Almiron. A 22-year-old attacking midfielder originally from Paraguay, Almiron represents the next generation of MLS players. Young, fast and deftly technical, he honed his craft with Lanus, of the Argentine Primera División, before commanding an $8 million transfer fee from Atlanta. Before signing in the United States, the Paraguayan international had interest from teams around the world, most notably Arsenal.
- Atlanta United Academy. As with any team, developing elite homegrown players will be a top priority for Martino. For years, Georgia United, based out of Atlanta, dominated youth soccer in Georgia and consistently finished in the top 10 percent of academy programs nationwide. Arthur Blank bought Georgia United after the 2015 season and converted the entire program into Atlanta United’s academy. The result? Atlanta has a top-rated academy filled with countless prospects and its professional team hasn’t played a single game.
- Andrew Carleton. Speaking of Atlanta’s academy, it would be unfair not to mention Andrew Carleton. An elite forward with the U.S. Under-17 national team, Carleton’s pace and skill with the ball has captivated Georgia United coaches and national team scouts for years. After being awarded an MLS contract with Atlanta at just 16 years old, he was loaned out to second division Charleston Battery for developmental purposes. Martino speaks highly of Carleton’s ability, and the mercurial teenager could contribute significant minutes this season.
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Upon completion this summer, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will immediately join the upper echelon of American sports stadiums. Costing an astonishing $1.6 billion, the stadium will feature a fully retractable, pinwheel-style roof, the largest electronic display in the NFL or MLS and a 100-yard fully stocked bar. Don’t let the partnership with the Falcons fool you– according to Atlanta United general manager Jim Smith, the stadium was built with “soccer in mind from the very beginning.”