Atlanta United FC played a record breaking inaugural season with Julian Gressel named AT&T MLS 2017 rookie of the year and the Miguel Almirón jersey ranked as the number one kit sold at MLSstore.com. But even more impressive was the record breaking attendance for a first year expansion team. Atlanta United FC supporters sold out almost every match played at Bobby Dodd Stadium, but when it was time to move into the newly built Mercedes-Benz Stadium some questioned whether Atlanta United could pack the 70,000 seat space. On September 16, when Atlanta United played Orlando City FC fans proved their loyalty turning out in droves to fill the stadium with 70,425 supporters. Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, attended the game and said Arthur Blank, Atlanta United owner, made good on his promise.
“We really wanted a soccer stadium here and Arthur said ‘This stadium I’m going to build is going to be the best in the world; it’s going to be world class and we’re going to fill it up.’ and he did,” Garber said.
According to Garber, the U.S. could host the World Cup at anytime because it has become a soccer nation and Atlanta is leading the Southeast market making it a strong contender for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
“I think Atlanta United is the story of pro sports,” Garber said. “It defied everyone’s expectations of what soccer would be in this market and what this stadium could look like.”
On October 22, Atlanta United fans made another strong showing breaking MLS attendance records again at the tune of 71,874. The match against Toronto FC determined Atlanta United FC’s place in the MLS Cup playoffs. The match ended in a 2-2 draw putting Atlanta United FC at 4th seed, but Anton Walkes, right-back for Atlanta United FC, said it was an advantage to the club to have that amount of home support.
“It’s a great addition,” Walkes said. “Having your home supporters gives you momentum.”
It was evident the home crowd gave Atlanta United FC a boost because the team struggled to put away wins on the road. The supporters at home were definitely an advantage when less than a week later on October 26, Atlanta United stared down the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Fans broke the post season record with an attendance of 67,221. It would be Atlanta United FC’s first and only playoff match that ended in 0-0 with a (3-1) penalty kick loss to Columbus Crew SC. Despite losing the much anticipated match and failing to advance in the playoffs, Team Captain Michael Parkhurst couldn’t thank fans enough for their commitment to the club.
“It was a great first season. I’m going to look back on it with a lot of pride, a lot of joy (and) a lot of great memories,” Parkhurst said. “It’s just amazing to play in front of this crowd on a weekly basis or a biweekly basis. It’s really indescribable. The amount of support that we’ve gotten throughout the season has just been fantastic and we couldn’t ask for more from the city of Atlanta. The people, the support that we’ve gotten – it’s been incredible. That’s what we’re going to remember most that we built this fan-base.”