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Atlanta lands MLS expansion team for 2017

April 17, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) — Major League Soccer announced its newest team Wednesday, unveiling an expansion club for Atlanta that will begin play in 2017.

The team will be owned by Arthur Blank, who also owns the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

“We’ve been working on soccer for over 10 years now,” Blank said. “This has been a dream of ours.”

Blank said he will get input from fans before deciding on a name for the new club.

The team will play at a $1 billion stadium to be built next to the Georgia Dome. While primarily designed for the Falcons, Blank was eager to line up an additional revenue source for the new facility and stressed that it will be soccer-friendly, with stands that are designed to retract to accommodate the larger pitch and new technology that will close off the upper sections to create an intimate atmosphere.

While it is designed to seat 71,000 for the NFL, it will be reduced to about 29,000 for soccer using only the lower bowl.

“There will never be an MLS game in Atlanta where NFL lines are shown on the field,” Blank said, drawing a big cheer.

MLS has 19 teams this season and has the goal of eventually having 24 teams. Orlando and New York City are scheduled to begin play next season, and the league has awarded a provisional team in Miami to a group led by David Beckham, contingent on a new stadium deal.

The league went all out to tout its newest team. Blank and MLS Commissioner Don Garber arrived by helicopter for the introductory news conference, touching down on the roof of a downtown hotel.

Garber said the Atlanta market, the largest in the country without an MLS team, was vital to the league’s growth.

“This is something that will help elevate our league,” Garber said. “It will also elevate our sport in the entire Southeast, which is something that is very important to us strategically.”

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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