MLS awards Atlanta, Falcons owner Blank new team for 2017

Falcons owner Arthur Blank was instrumental in bringing soccer to Atlanta. (USATSI)

Major League Soccer and Falcons owner Arthur Blank announced a new Atlanta franchise on Wednesday set to kick off in 2017. 

The name is undecided -- something Blank says will be left up to the fans.

“You’ll have an opportunity to come up with the name for it, a color scheme that'll work with the red and black with a little bit of gold mixed in, and a logo,” Blank told an energetic crowd on Wednesday afternoon. “My family keeps asking me what's the name, and I say talk to the fans.”

“We’ve been working on [bringing soccer to Atlanta] probably over 10 years now,” and on Wednesday, after weeks of not-so-secret speculation, it finally became official.

Aside from Blank, MLS commissioner Don Garber, Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed, former USMNT star Alexi Lalas, and Falcons players Osi Umenyiora and Sean Weatherspoon (both soccer fans) were in attendance.

The team will share the new Falcons stadium, set to be finished in 2017, and both Garber and Blank mentioned how Atlanta's new stadium would be able to accomodate international events such as (hopefully) the World Cup. 

In addressing the crowd, Blank became emotional as he talked about the impact of youth soccer on his family and how he hoped the new franchise would breed a new generation of soccer fans.

“I’m sorry for the emotion … but I’m not, because that’s what soccer is, amongst other things, a lot of passion, a lot of emotion,” Blank said.

Atlanta, which will become the 22nd MLS franchise, joins a cluster of new southern franchises along with new teams in Orlando and Miami. A fourth, New York City F.C., recently announced plans to play three seasons at Yankee Stadium, beginning in 2015.  

Blank joins Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Seahawks owner Paul Allen as NFL owners who've ventured into the MLS market. 

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