Atlanta United FC are a professional football club currently competing in the MLS, the top division of United States soccer. Playing out of Atlanta, Georgia, Atlanta United have a massive following in the states, and are known for their rowdy home field at the Mercedes Benz Stadium. Despite just recently being added to the MLS via expansion in 2017, Atlanta United have quickly climbed the ranks, and are considered to be one of North America’s most dangerous sides.
Founded April 16, 2014
Stadium Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Owner Arthur Blank
President Darren Eales
Head coach Frank de Boer
League Major League Soccer
Atlanta United made its MLS debut in 2017, but the genesis of the club took place in 2014. After years of lobbying for an MLS expansion franchise to be rewarded to Atlanta, the bid was finally won by billionaire Arthur Blank. Blank was set to bring Atlanta an MLS franchise three years after the bid. As owner of the Atlanta Falcons, Blank saw the MLS expansion as the perfect opportunity to combine with his soon-to-be masterpiece, the Mercedes Benz Stadium. The idea was for this world class stadium to be the home field for both the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United. With the opening of the stadium projected for 2017, Blank pushed his vision of the MLS franchise flourishing because of Mercedes Benz stadium during his successful lobbying for the expansion bid.
Atlanta United FC had three short years to prepare for an inaugural 2017 MLS season. Former Argentina, Barcelona, and Paraguay manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino was appointed the club’s first manager. Martino also spent 10+ years coaching in professional sides across South America, and it was shown by the talent that was brought to the club in the months leading up to the season. Atlanta United signed midfielders Hector Villaba ($2.5 million) and Miguel Almiron ($7.5 million) from Argentinian sides, and added Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez ($4.5 million). In addition, Atlanta United was able to recruit a handful of players that had European experience. United States international goalkeeper Brad Guzan and seasoned striker Kenwyne Jones joined on free transfers.
Atlanta United did not perform like newcomers during their inaugural 2017 MLS season. During the 2017 regular season, Atlanta United scored 70 goals in the league (2nd in MLS), 19 of which were scored by Josef Martinez. Despite the hype around Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta United were forced to use the facilities of Georgia Tech University for the first five months of MLS competition while the stadium construction was completed. This did not phase Atlanta United, who went on to post an 11-3-3 record at home, among the top 3 home records in the league that season. Atlanta United would finish fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, enough to earn them a home game in the opening round of the MLS playoffs. Atlanta was bounced in the first round of the playoffs via penalty shootout, bringing a swift end to an over-achieving first season in the MLS.
Since entering the MLS in 2017, the trajectory of success has been both positive and consistent. Atlanta United was able to improve on their impressive opening season by finishing second in the 2018 Eastern Conference standings. After a first round bye, Atlanta United was impressive on their way to the final. Atlanta would go on to beat NYCFC by a 4-1 aggregate score after two legs, and would continue to the final after a 3-1 aggregate win over New York Red Bulls in the 2018 MLS Cup semifinals. Atlanta United would go on to win the 2018 MLS Cup in front of their home fans at Mercedes Benz Stadium, with Josef Martinez getting the opener in a 2-0 win. The championship victory represented the first major sports title won by a professional team from Atlanta since 1995, and was a massive step for Atlanta United as a franchise.
Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez would score 31 goals in 34 games in the 2018 season, setting an MLS record for most goals scored in a season. Martinez was awarded 2018 MLS MVP and Atlanta United coach Tata Martino was awarded 2018 MLS coach of the year, capping off a practically ideal 2018 MLS campaign. Martino had announced his plans to depart from the team after the season ended, leaving a vacant managerial spot that would be filled by former Ajax legend Frank de Boer.
The domestic success opened up new competition opportunities for Atlanta United, including entrances into the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League and the 2019 Champeones Cup. Atlanta United was bounced from the 2019 CONCACAF Champions League in the second round. Atlanta would be able to add another trophy to the cabinet in August of 2019, when they beat 2018 Liga MX winners Club America by a score of 3-2.
Since joining the MLS in 2017, Atlanta United have burst onto the football scene in the Americas. In their few short years in action, Atlanta United have developed a reputation for high pace, high pressure football that will typically yield a high number of goals. Current club goal leader in Atlanta United history is Josef Martinez with 90 goals in all competitions. Current club assist leader in Atlanta United history is German midfielder Julian Gressel with 39 assists in all competitions.
As previously mentioned, Atlanta United has heavy ties with South America and the football talent from this region, and they always have. A majority of the early success experienced by the club came from the performances of Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, and Hector Villiaba, all of which have significant South American ties. Much of the business that Atlanta United conducts on the transfer market involves talent from South America. Winger Gonzalo Martinez was signed in early 2018 for a club record transfer fee of $15.4 million. Atlanta’s biggest sale of a player also came in 2018 when Premier League side Newcastle United purchased Miguel Almiron for $26.4 million.
Ezequiel Barco, Gonzalo Martinez and Josef Martinez make up the core of South American talent that is currently still leading Atlanta United, as this side remains one of the premier sides in Major League Soccer.