Atlanta United is vital to city’s sports

Illustration by Devin Phillips

Atlanta sports fans need a reason to cheer.

For years, Atlanta’s professional sports teams have carried a tradition of performing within a range of mediocrity and moderate success while continuously falling short on the grandest stages.

The closest that an Atlanta professional sports franchise has come to a championship is the Atlanta Braves’ 1995 World Series title. While the Braves have experienced bursts of success since winning that championship in the beginning of the Chipper Jones era, they continue to hold an all-time .500 win percentage. The Atlanta Braves offer a glaring illustration of the quality of play that has been presented to Atlanta sports fans since professional sports teams surfaced in the city: great success on a rare occasion, but engulfed in mediocrity.

The Atlanta Falcons’ season this past year gave fans a reason to believe that Atlanta sports may be on its way towards breaking into the success that fans have craved. A high-flying regular season led to a post-season that brought dejected Falcons fans out of the woodwork and catalyzed a spirit of unity throughout the city.

The season peaked with a trip to the Super Bowl, a spectacular event for Atlanta with a tragic ending that could have been predicted by almost any dedicated Atlanta sports fan. After building a 25-point lead, the Falcons fell to the New England Patriots 34-28 in what can only be described as a mind-numbing blow to the hopes of Atlanta sports fans.

After the loss, many of those who were cheering for the Falcons fell back into complacency, dejected by the results that they have consistently been given over the years and now indifferent to the performance of Atlanta sports. Recently, however, those fans have been struck with a different type of optimism: excitement for the unknown future that has yet to arrive. This excitement was inspired by the beginning of Atlanta United, the Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team that recently played their inaugural game.

Atlanta latched onto its new soccer team in full force, selling out home games and avidly wearing team gear to show support. Atlanta United experienced moderate success so far in its introduction to the MLS, but regardless of how well the team plays this year, fans should build on the momentum created by the support shown thus far and continue to embrace the opportunity that Atlanta United has presented to the city.

In a time when it would be easy for Atlanta sports fans to abandon the teams that have disappointed them so many times in the past, Atlanta United provides those fans with an opportunity for a fresh start, a chance to build hope from a new foundation. While it is unlikely that an expansion team in its first season active in a professional sports league will experience much success, the support given to the team should continue to match the intensity that it has held throughout the team’s season so far.

It is entirely possible that Atlanta United could keep with the Atlanta sports trend of raising fans’ hopes and failing to meet expectations and it is more than likely that an elusive championship will not be brought back to the city very soon. Atlanta sports fans have never expected their teams to be dominant forces because Atlanta sports doesn’t have a history of dominance; but the hope of such dominance presented by a new professional franchise is exactly what the Atlanta sports community needs right now.

Following the devastation of this year’s Super Bowl, compiled with the relative stagnancy of the Braves and Hawks in the past few years, the hopeful attitude required to support professional sports franchises could easily begin to fade. Atlanta United provides a unique opportunity to keep that hope alive and an opportunity to not just say “there’s always next year” after a miserable season but to truly believe that next year could be a championship year.

Keep sporting those red and black stripes, Atlanta, because regardless of how the rest of Atlanta United’s season goes, Atlanta sports need your support if we want to unite and conquer anytime soon.

MLS average attendance through season so far:

1 Atlanta United FC 50,610

2 Seattle Sounders 45,600

3 Minnesota United 35,043

4 Montreal Impact 34,373

5 Orlando City SC 25,527

*According to Soccer Stadium Digest