November 16 – Atlanta United owners, currently enjoying a successful first season in the MLS with sell out crowds and a trip to the play-offs, have made their next expansion move by entering a team in the USL, the second tier of US football, for the 2018 season.
They will be joined by Penn FC who were unveiled today the new brand for Harrisburg’s USL organisation. Formerly the Harrisburg City Islanders, Penn FC will kick off the 2018 season in the USL’s Eastern Conference.
The Atlanta club’s name and crest has yet to be unveiled but matches will be played at Coolray Field in Gwinnett, Georgia, which will have a capacity of 10,427.
“The caliber of organisation that has been assembled by Arthur Blank (Atlanta United owner) 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,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis.
Atlanta United has seen more than 800,000 fans attend matches in the 2017 MLS regular season. The club also set a record attendance of 71,874 when it hosted Toronto FC at Mercedes Benz Stadium on October 22.
The new club will act as a development team for Atlanta United’s academy players.
“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,” said Atlanta United President Darren Eales.
“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.”
Fresno FC, Las Vegas Lights FC and Nashville SC will also be making their debuts in the USL in the 2018 regular season. The USL will currently comprise 35 teams in total in the 2018 season.
Seven MLS teams also operate second teams in the USL.
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