Five Stripes, One Star: Atlanta United FC embodies MLS 3.0 as new MLS superclub

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ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 08: Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst (3) raises the Major League Soccer Philip F. Anschutz trophy after the MLS Cup Finals match between Atlanta United and Portland Timbers on December 8, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.(Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Editorial (December 9, 2018) – Atlanta United FC are MLS Cup Champions. Last night they capped off a spectacular 2018 season with a 2-0 win at home over Portland Timbers FC. They are the new MLS super club and they embody what MLS 3.0 has aspired to become.

Five Stripes, One Star: Atlanta United FC embodies MLS 3.0 as the new MLS superclub

Alexi Lalas called it earlier in the week. The pregame tifo from Atlanta supporters made a similar statement.

Atlanta has shattered previous league attendance records in just two years since entering the league. The now departing Tata Martino helped recruit big time South American talent at levels and ages MLS hasn’t seen before. They play a fun style of soccer in a system that allowed Josef Martinez to set multiple league goal-scoring records.

The Five Stripes embody everything MLS 3.0 has been about. Big money ownership that cares in a non-traditional soccer market with a rabid and unique supporter culture? Check. A fantastic stadium in a great location they fill regularly? Check. A distinct and fresh style of play with players who wouldn’t have considered MLS a decade ago to fit that system? Check. A trophy? Check.

The only major component they’re missing so far has been major contributions from a Homegrown player. Granted, the club is only two years old and it takes time for a development academy to bare fruit. So, they get a pass on not having three Homegrown players in their preferred Starting XI.

We already knew Atlanta was setting a new high bar for MLS but the one thing that was missing was an MLS Cup. They now have that. The Five Strikes will have a star above their crest on their kits in 2019. Everything they are doing well is something new they brought to MLS or an upgrade. Everything that has brought MLS to new heights in MLS 3.0 and Atlanta does all of those well if not the best in the league.

Atlanta United will be undergoing some changes in 2019. Martino will be leaving as manager. There are lots of rumors around Miguel Almiron and a move to Europe, particularly Newcastle United. Atlanta will need a new manager. Ezequiel Barco hasn’t lived up to the expectations that came with his transfer fee but is still young. They’ll need to get this off-season right if they want a shot at becoming a dynasty in the years to come.

The rest of the league has to be looking up at Atlanta and wondering to themselves: What do we do to catch up and compete with that? The gauntlet has been thrown down.

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