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April 16, 2014 at 3:25 PM

MLS confirms Atlanta as expansion franchise

It really has been no secret for a few weeks, but MLS announced Wednesday it is awarded Atlanta and Falcons owner Arthur Blank an expansion franchise that will join the league in 2017.

The team will play along with the NFL’s Falcons in a new stadium that will be built downtown — and, yes, have an artificial turf surface. Capacity for MLS games will be set at 29,322.

Fans are encouraged to suggest a name for the new franchise, and a logo will also be released as a later date. The colors will be red, black and gold, similar to the football team.

Here are some quotes from the news release:

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“We are thrilled to welcome Atlanta to Major League Soccer as our 22nd team. Atlanta is one of the largest and most diverse markets in North America and has a rich tradition in sports and culture. And with Arthur Blank joining our ownership group, we are adding one of the most respected owners in professional sports.  Arthur is deeply passionate about soccer and our quest to become one of the top professional soccer leagues in the world. We look forward to working with him and the entire Falcons organization on achieving this important goal.” — Don Garber, MLS commissioner

“We are very excited to bring a Major League Soccer team to Atlanta. We are going to build a first-class organization on and off the field that will be a source of pride for the entire community, and we believe our downtown stadium will become a destination for soccer fans throughout the Southeast for many years to come.” — Arthur Blank, owner

“A Major League Soccer franchise in the city of Atlanta is another strong example of how our city and region continue to draw world-class professional teams, cultural attractions, sporting events and new businesses that create jobs, attract more visitors to our city and make Atlanta the center of commerce in the Southeast region of the United States. Atlanta has long been an international city with a vibrant and diverse population.  An MLS soccer team competing in our new state-of-the-art facility could not be a more fitting and welcome addition as we continue on our path towards being one of the leading cities in the world.  I want to personally thank Arthur Blank and his team for their hard work in making this goal a reality and for believing in Atlanta.” — Kasim Reed, Atlanta Mayor

“Georgia is home to some of the most passionate sports fans in the country. And no sport has grown in popularity during the last two decades as much as soccer. I expect game days for our new team in Atlanta to be colorful and festive events, with people from all over the state making the trip to the state capital to support the team.”  — Nathan Deal, Georgia Governor

“I think it’s fantastic that MLS is expanding to Atlanta.  It’s a great city, a great market and a great opportunity.  I don’t think there is a better place to expand.  I have a special tie to Atlanta and it will be fantastic to see something back home.  Soccer is growing and growing, and over the years it has become one of the bigger sports in Georgia.” — Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire goalkeeper (born in Lilburn, Ga., and attended Brookwood High School; played club soccer for Atlanta Fire United soccer club)

“I think it’s exciting that Atlanta is getting an MLS team.  There’s a ton of talent there. I know thousands and thousands of kids play in the area. I have younger sisters that still play, so I think it makes it exciting for them to see that there is a professional environment and it’s something they can work for.” — Jack McInerney, Montreal forward (grew up in Alpharetta, Ga.; played club soccer for Cobb Futbol Club)

“When I was growing up we didn’t really have a professional soccer league to look up to, definitely nothing like MLS, so to have that direct connection in your own city is going to be something beneficial for not only the fans going to the games, but most importantly for the kids.” — Ricardo Clark, Houston midfielder (grew up in Jonesboro, Ga., and attended St. Pius High School; played club soccer for AFC Lightning)

“The crowd in Atlanta was amazing the last time we played there.  They were enthusiastic, engaged in the game and were happy to be there.  They are excited about soccer.” — Kelley O’Hara, USWNT and Sky Blue FC defender (grew up in Fayetteville, Ga., and attended Starr’s Mill High School; played club soccer for Peachtree City Lazers)

“I think it is very exciting.  I think it is a great opportunity for the city.  A lot of good youth talent comes from the Atlanta area, and there are a lot of big (youth) clubs in the area.” — Clint Mathis, former USMNT and MLS player (grew up in Conyers, Ga., and attended Heritage High School; played club soccer for AFC Lightning)

“It’s a great opportunity that has been a long time coming.  Being from Atlanta, I am really excited.  I think (the new team) will have a tremendous impact.  The landscape of youth soccer — and soccer in general — in the state of Georgia has been changing rapidly and this will really give an identity to the sport.” — Josh Wolff, former USMNT and MLS player (grew up in Stone Mountain, Ga.; and attended Parkview High School; played club soccer for Brookwood Steamers, Gwinnett Soccer Assn., DSA Mustangs and AFC Lightning)

“It’s amazing.  I’m really excited because we need more teams, not only in the south, but in and around the rest of the country.” — Abby Wambach, USWNT forward

“I think it is a great market.  I grew up in Florida and played in quite a few tournaments up in Atlanta.  I played in the Atlanta Cup growing up.  It is such a huge soccer community.  You can’t help but think they are going to thrive there.” — Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City and USMNT midfielder

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