Atlanta United builds soccer community in Atlanta

Fans stand united in Mercedes Benz Stadium as they cheer on their team against New England Revolution on October 6.

Callan Cucchi

Fans stand united in Mercedes Benz Stadium as they cheer on their team against New England Revolution on October 6.

Since its inaugural season in 2017, Atlanta United has created an easily recognizable culture throughout the city. United was founded in 2014 by Arthur Blank and began playing as an expansion team in the MLS in 2017, becoming the twenty-second team in the league.

The fans, known as the 17’s, have rallied around their new team. The average attendance at home games is 53,003, and the club holds the MLS record for the highest attendance at a regular season game. 

“I think Atlanta United has changed the community by giving people a common thing to support,” sophomore Zephy Shroeder said. “It’s really connected everyone in the city.”

The club has created many traditions including the carrying and hammering in of the golden spike by a member of the community. On February 10, 2017, the club officially announced that number 17 will be reserved and dedicated to the fans, with president Darren Eales stating that fans are “an integral part of the squad”.

The four primary support groups; the Footie Mob, Resurgence, Terminus Legion and Faction have become the heartbeat of the stadium. They exist to coordinate all things that supporters do, such as creating tifo displays, giant visuals created by fans presented before matches, organizing parades and cheering on their team.

I think the fans have helped carry the team,” Shroeder said. “They are there to support them every game whether it’s a win or loss. It helps Atlanta United keep going.”

Throughout the city, busses, trains and trollies have been covered with the logo of the five stripes. Additionally, several murals have been painted throughout the city to honor the club. 

“I think it’s great because it shows the city’s love for the game and it really shows the dedication of the fans trying to go out and advertise for their team and put up paintings,” Shroeder said.

United created an academy to develop young players in 2016. The academy consists of teams in age groups U-12, U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16, U-17 and U-19. It provides a pathway for players with potential to play at the top level. In addition, the program feeds into both Atlanta United’s first and second teams. 

“Playing for the academy has given me opportunities that most regular club teams wouldn’t give me,” said Grady sophomore and player on the academy’s youth team, Nathan Richmond. “For example, I get a lot of exposure to college scouts which can help me get a scholarship.”

Both the first and second teams of Atlanta United have visited Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to spend the day with patients. The club created the Unite & Conquer Cancer campaign, a league-wide initiative to help raise funds and awareness for the fight against childhood cancer.

“I think unite and conquer is really trying to make Atlanta more inclusive to bring everyone together,” Shroeder said. “It is trying to tell us that when we’re working together we can get through anything.”

The Atlanta United Foundation (AUF) co-founded Soccer in the Streets, a program designed to provide those in Atlanta a place to play and enjoy the sport. On October 5, they cut the ribbon for the third station soccer pitch in East Point. 

The AUF is a nonprofit organization created to give back to the city of Atlanta. The foundation has helped provide a space for people to come together and enjoy the game that has brought the city together.

“Atlanta United has brought a lot of different families from a lot of different backgrounds together,” Richmond said. “Players on Atlanta United 2 who go to hospitals help give back to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the community that supports them.”