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Atlanta United Surprise Fans With Playoff Spot

Fans, shown earlier this month at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, have embraced the Atlanta United. The expansion soccer team is on its way to the playoffs.
Credit Paul Newberry / Associated Press
Audio version of this story here.

On Wednesday night, Atlanta United made history as only the fourth Major League Soccer expansion team to reach the playoffs.

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When Atlanta United’s Julian Gressel scored the first goal Wednesday night at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Abel Henry of East Atlanta said the crowd went wild.

“The team played really well,” Henry said. “They were loose. They seemed very confident, and they delivered. It’s awesome.”

Atlanta United delivered a 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Union to secure a playoff spot.

Attendance Record

The team also recently broke Major League Soccer attendance records in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

On Sept. 16, the team confirmed an attendance of 70,425 fans, an all-time record for Major League Soccer. Henry, a season-ticket holder, said he is surprised at how quickly the new team gained traction.

“I thought it was going to get big in two or three years, but because the team was so good, right away, I think everyone kind of really just jumped on it,” Henry said.

Atlanta Support

Trey Roberts said he didn’t think the team would make it to the playoffs in its first season.

“It just shows that between the fans, the club and then also the ownership of Arthur Blank, we have a pretty good backing here,” Roberts said.

Sydney Hunte said it helps that they are playing in a brand new stadium. He edits a blog about Atlanta United, called Dirty South Soccer.

“When you walk into the stadium, it’s loud,” Hunte said. “Atlanta United players, you know they always talk about how great it is to have 45,000 people chanting, yelling, screaming, all throughout the match.”

New Stadium 

He said coaches and players from opposing teams have commented on how hard it is to communicate with their players because of the noise.

Hunte said in a Southern football town full of transplants, supporting the soccer team makes sense now, especially because the team is winning.

“Pretty much everyone in the city has rallied around Atlanta United because it’s been a very organic following,” Hunte said. “This is a team that’s really been built from scratch from the ground up.”

International Fans

Natan Bartolotti grew up in Atlanta, but his family is from Brazil. He said he’s glad the city is embracing an international sport.

“I think it’s great for a growing American-Latin base to have something that they can relate to feel connected to the culture especially in a tumultuous time like right now, when there’s a lot of division,” Bartolotti said.

There’s some regular season games left to play, with the next home game on Oct. 3 against the Minnesota United FC. The first playoff game is scheduled for late October against the New York Red Bulls.