Major League Soccer is expanding into Atlanta.
The Atlanta franchise will join the league for the 2017 season, Commissioner Don Garber announced yesterday at a news conference. The team was purchased by Arthur Blank, owner of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons.
“We are thrilled to welcome Atlanta to Major League Soccer as our 22nd team,” Garber said in an MLS news release. “Atlanta is one of the largest and most diverse markets in North America and has a rich tradition in sports and culture.”
The announcement leaves one more expansion team to fulfill Garber’s goal of 24 franchises by 2020. Former English national team captain and Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham announced two months ago that he was purchasing a franchise in Miami. Beckham had a clause in his 2007 player contract that allowed him to purchase the team for the reduced price of $25 million.
The New York City Football Club, which will join the league next year, was purchased for a $100 million fee. Blank’s expansion fee was not announced by MLS.
The Atlanta franchise will play its home games in the new $1.2 billion football stadium that Blank, co-founder of Home Depot Inc., is building in downtown Atlanta.
Atlanta, which has NFL, Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association franchises, is the largest U.S. television market without an MLS team. The city’s National Hockey League franchise, the Thrashers, moved to Winnipeg in 2011.