The passion for Atlanta United FC wasn’t supposed to last this long.
The city’s new Major League Soccer franchise was supposed to lose fans like Atlanta’s other soccer teams experienced in the past. Owner Arthur Blank did everything he could to build a big-league MLS side, but even if they were good, the fans would stop coming after the first few games.
But those pessimistic outlooks have held far less water than Bobby Dodd Stadium did during last week’s prematch rain delay.
ATL United have played before five sellout crowds in their temporary home stadium, and the side’s home matches have been a raucous affair. Renovations to Bobby Dodd have taken away the upper deck on the stadium’s north end, but they’re still playing in front of nearly 45,000 fans per home match.
For comparison, Toronto FC had the third-largest crowd in Week 13, with 25,376 fans. Only the Seattle Sounders pulled more fans than Atlanta.
As we approach the summer months, there’s reason to believe the fans are eager to endure the heat and cramped quarters of Bobby Dodd and will continue to sell out the stadium for the Five Stripes. Ticket prices for the remaining four matches at Georgia Tech’s football stadium remain high on the secondary market, and they project to be sellouts.
Obviously, it helps that ATL United are pretty good. Through 13 weeks, they’re one point behind Columbus Crew SC for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the Five Stripes have played two fewer games. With 12 of the final 22 games at home and striker Josef Martinez due back soon from a quad injury, the side that’s already scoring goals at a blistering pace could get another offensive boost in the coming months.
Keep in mind ATL United will also add U.S. Men’s National Team goalie Brad Guzan after the MLS summer transfer window opens July 10, so there will be yet another reason to watch this team. Those who said Atlanta wouldn’t fall in love with soccer might eventually be proven right, but if the first five home matches are any indication of what’s to come this summer, they’re going to be wrong for quite some time.Follow @Sean_Breslin