MARIETTA, Ga. — Even before they kicked a ball in MLS, Atlanta United ignited a passion for soccer in metro Atlanta. And as impressive as the Eastern Conference champions have been on the field in their first two seasons, they’ve been equally proficient at bringing the beautiful game to their community.
On Thursday afternoon, MLS WORKS and the Atlanta United Foundation joined forces to unveil a renovated teen center and new turf soccer field at the James T. Anderson Boys & Girls Club in Marietta.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Atlanta United president Darren Eales were on hand to help a few dozen Boys & Girls Club members break in their new digs, as were Atlanta forward Romario Williams and defender Mikey Ambrose.
“One of the things that we have as a core value is to give back to the community and to give back to others,” Eales said. “As a club, we’ve always strived to be part of the community – right from day one, when we were building Atlanta United.”
Outfitted with murals in ATLUTD’s swaggering “King Peach” style, the upgraded teen center now includes computer stations, a big screen TV and a PlayStation (equipped with EA SPORTS FIFA 19, of course). The kids were giddy taking it all in, and they weren’t alone in the feeling. The two ATLUTD players doled out high-fives as they assumed goalkeeper positions in a frenetic first match on the new field.
“I spied the table tennis quickly,” added Eales, laughing. “I’m looking forward to taking on all comers.”
Garber alluded to the unprecedented fan support for Atlanta United – record-breaking attendance, famous fans like Ludacris and 2 Chainz – but emphasized that the club’s own support of their local community is what truly sets them apart.
“In order to be really relevant … you need to be embedded in the community,” he said. “This is a team that means something in this community.”
When the Five Stripes take on the Portland Timbers this Saturday night in the 2018 MLS Cup (8 pm ET | FOX, UniMás, TSN, TVAS), they’ll likely do so in front of another record crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta have drawn more than 70,000 fans to each of their home games in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, a testament to the relationship they have built with their fans. It’s one they plan on maintaining everywhere they go.
“I know Darren wants the MLS Cup to be here next year,” said Garber. “So maybe we add a new wing.”