Release from Atlanta United FC:
Atlanta United today announced plans to own and operate a second-division team that will join the United Soccer League (USL) for the 2018 season. The club’s name and crest will be released in the coming months.
“This is a great opportunity for our club’s long-term success to be able to bridge the gap between our best in class academy and our First Team,” Atlanta United President Darren Eales said. “Establishing a top-level Academy was the first priority for our club and while our staff has done a marvelous job in identifying and developing young players, the next step has always been to create the pathway for the 18-to-19-year-old player who needs to continue his development before competing for a starting position at the MLS level. We’ll now have the capability to develop players in our system from the time they’re 12 years-old until the minute they reach the First Team. We also want to thank Charleston Battery for being fantastic partners over the last two years. The Battery are a first-class organization and we’ll continue to maintain a professional working relationship with the club.”
USL, which will enter its eighth season in 2018, has been a partner of Major League Soccer (MLS) since 2013. It is one of the largest professional soccer leagues in the world, with more than 30 teams across the United States and Canada.
“Atlanta United’s organization has quickly proven itself among the leaders in Major League Soccer, and we are delighted to welcome them to our already world-class ownership groups that make up the USL,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “The caliber of organization that has been assembled by Arthur Blank and his team has raised the bar for professional soccer in the United States, and their addition to our league is another step toward the USL’s goal of becoming one of the best Division II professional soccer leagues in the world, on par with the English Championship, Liga Adelante and 2. Bundesliga.”
The USL team will provide the Atlanta United First Team with both short-term and long-term benefits, namely by continuing the pathway to the professional level for Atlanta United Academy players and the opportunity for First Team players to receive playing time on loan. Atlanta United’s current roster has 12 players with USL experience, in addition to three players who will join the team effective Jan. 1, 2018 (Lagos Kunga, George Bello and Patrick Okonkwo).
Atlanta’s USL team will train alongside the Atlanta United First Team and Academy teams at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground, while the team will play its home matches at Coolray Field, the home of the International League’s Gwinnett Braves. Coolray Field opened in 2008 and will have a soccer capacity of 10,427.
Atlanta United’s new USL club will join the previously announced Fresno FC, Las Vegas Lights FC and Nashville SC making their debut in the 2018 regular season.