ATLANTA – Darren Eales is, in the most endearing way possible, a one-upper. The Atlanta United FC team president’s goal – as shared by his boss, Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank – is to do things bigger, better and bolder than they’ve been done before. He wants to be the best.
So when MLS Commissioner Don Garber officially announced Monday that Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the City of Atlanta would host the 2018 MLS All Star Game presented by Target, it should come as no surprise that Blank, Eales, and company declared that they want it to be, quite simply, the best that’s ever been.
To accomplish this, Eales said he and about 30 other team officials flew to Chicago last year to take in what Eales described as the best All-Star Game to date. There, his team gained inspiration and started the brainstorming process for how they could mold the various games, events and parties to properly showcase all that Atlanta has to offer.
“I think Atlanta is one of the top cities in the world in terms of sporting cities and capabilities, so the All-Star Game is a real chance not to just focus on the game itself, but on the events around it and make it a week-long celebration,” Eales told reporters Monday after the announcement.
“We wanted to take as many ideas as we could from that trip to implement for next summer, which we think is going to be really exciting.”
Blank, who also owns the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, also spoke about his excitement over the All-Star Game coming to Atlanta during Monday's press conference.
“When we started out this venture of building Mercedes-Benz Stadium… we wanted the stadium to not only house these two great franchises, but to be the home for important events in Atlanta,” Blank said. “This is an example of that.”
While the ability to host all-star games and championships from various leagues and sports was always the plan, Blank underlined that none of it would be possible without the unrivaled level of support Atlanta United has received from soccer fans in the region.
“I don’t think we have to worry about selling out the All-Star Game, since we sold it out again last night,” said Blank, referring to the MLS record attendance crowd of 71,874 on hand to see Atlanta United battle Toronto FC to a 2-2 draw Sunday. “If there’s one group that I think deserves the biggest round of applause from my heart… it’s the Atlanta fans. To set all of these records in its first year is a great tribute to this great city.”
Garber agreed, calling Atlanta United “the most successful expansion franchise in professional sports.” So it should come as no surprise that the league chose to capitalize on the buzz that’s been created in the city as quickly as possible.
“This has been a bar set at historic levels for our entire industry,” Garber said. “This city, the Blank family, Darren Eales, [head coach Tata Martino], and the rest of their group should be very proud. This is unprecedented in our sport. And I think this team has attracted the attention of the entire soccer-playing world. We’re excited about that and proud of everything that they’ve done.”