Editorial (March 13, 2018) – The team that calls the Dirty South home has done it again. Atlanta United FC breaks record for single-game attendance in Major League Soccer. The Five Stripes beat D.C. United in a home opener that ended three to one. With massive crowds consistently appearing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium it will be interesting to know if they can continue this trend and what it means for the state of the sport in America.
Atlanta United FC Breaks Record for Attendance at an MLS Match
Supporters of Atlanta United are showing up in droves to back their club. When the final tally came in for Sunday’s match a crowd of 72,035 strong came to support the club on opening day. The club previously held this record when they took on Toronto FC on Decision Day last year. A total of 71,874 supporters showed up on that day to see the Five Stripes take on TFC for a spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The club is also the proud owner of all three top spots for biggest single-game crowds and the fifth spot in the largest regular-season crowds.
This was not only the largest crowd in MLS standards but the fourth largest crowd to watch a soccer game in the world. This catapults Atlanta United into the echelon of such world-renowned clubs as Manchester United, Bayern Munich, and Borussia Dortmund.
#ATLUTD’s record-breaking crowd ranked #4 in world soccer this weekend
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 12, 2018
Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s max capacity is 71,000 but can be expanded up to 75,000. Owner Arthur Blank of Atlanta United and Atlanta Falcons is the brain behind the building of this mega structure. He and his front office were not sure of the popularity of the game in the South. Soccer specific seating was made for this reason lowering the capacity to 42,500. An intimate and loud atmosphere is created in the stadium with curtains that cover the upper bowl of the stadium. Only in special circumstances have they opened the stadium up to mass capacity and if these numbers continue could be the new standard capacity for MLS matches.
Can they continue?
Is this a sustainable trend? Or is soccer just a quick fad in the Peach State? No, it is not. MLS has tapped into a burgeoning sports culture in the South. The club that represents this region is Atlanta United. A club drawing supporters from across the region to show up to its matches in mass. Young players and a dynamic system have also created a fun product on the pitch to watch. The numbers and interest in the sport from South will continue when Atlanta United gets a regional rival when Nashville joins the MLS. A match that could truly outshine previous records.
What does this mean?
The game of soccer and MLS is rapidly growing a strong fan base. The days of just trying to put butts into seats are now getting further and further away. The MLS and the sport have transformed into creating a unique fan culture that is quintessentially American. Atlanta United is a beautiful example of this growth. A team from the football-loving South that did not expect to have the attendance numbers are quickly turning heads around the world.
The Five Stripes are becoming the new gold standard for expansion clubs in MLS. They are also showing the example that soccer is not just a quick trend that is not built to last. With attendance records breaking into world-renowned numbers, the sky’s the limit. The atmosphere that is created around the Atlanta United matches shows that soccer in America is truly coming into its own.