ATLANTA – It seems appropriate that Decision Day presented by AT&T features two of MLS’s most-talked about teams, Toronto FC and Atlanta United, squaring off in undoubtedly the league’s most-talked about venue, Mercedes-Benz Stadium (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE in the US | TSN4 in Canada).
In a way, the matchup not only signifies two of MLS’s top teams, but also two of the league’s most passionate fanbases. Atlanta and Toronto draw two of the biggest crowds in MLS, ranking first and third in average attendance, respectively. Each team has sold out nearly every game this season, and Atlanta will break the all-time MLS records for single-game and single-season attendance on Sunday.
Atlanta United defender and Atlanta-area native Mark Bloom will get to see his hometown team fight for a home playoff game against his former teammates from north of the border. Prior to being picked up by Atlanta this winter, Bloom spent four years in Toronto, appearing in 39 regular season games for the Reds.
“They’ve experienced the new inaugural season too, but they were very much disappointed. Our fans haven’t had to wait [for success] where Toronto’s fans did for a long time,” Bloom said. “It’s good to see that those fans stuck around, but I think our fans from the beginning…. I mean, before we’d even played a game we were double in size!”
Bloom was referring to the number of season tickets sold by Atlanta, which was hovering around 30,000 before the team kicked off their inaugural campaign this spring. That’s a very high number in MLS, and a huge driver of Atlanta’s attendance success this season.
But it’s not just in the stands where the comparisons between the teams exist. While Toronto have already secured their spot atop MLS in the regular season as Supporters’ Shield winners, Atlanta is in fourth in the league. They raced up the standings in September, a month that saw them rip off a seven-game unbeaten streak and pick up 17 points.
“It’s been interesting because both teams have a lot of talent, that’s pretty obvious,” Bloom said. “But coming from Toronto, just being there for a while, they really brought in a core group of guys so after every year… they really had an identity. With this team, nobody knew anybody. We were together a couple months before we played our first game, so this year it’s been about learning who we are, what we’re good at and learning how to win. We’ve done a really good job at it.”