By DAN KARELL
The Atlanta Falcons seem dead set on bringing a Major League Soccer franchise to their city.
Though MLS commissioner Don Garber was in San Antonio last week to speak with local officials and San Antonio Scorpions executives, a report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution says that the Falcons are making progress in their talks with the league.
Garber announced plans to expand to 24 teams at last season’s All-Star game. Nineteen teams currently play in MLS, and New York City FC and Orlando City SC will join the league in 2015. On Wednesday, David Beckham formally announced plans to open a franchise in Miami, leaving multiple cities competing for the two remaining expansion slots.
“We’re far along in negotiations with them,” Falcons president Rich McKay said of MLS at the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce in Decatur, Ga. “It’s our objective to get an MLS franchise if we can make it happen. We think it would be, not just great for Atlanta and the region, but really it’s the right thing to do for the southeast.”
The Falcons are finalizing plans for a new $1.2 billion stadium and have made it clear to MLS that they want a soccer team to play in the proposed 65,000 seat multiuse arena.
In addition to football and soccer, the Falcons are hoping that the stadium could be used for other events, such as the SEC Championship football game, NCAA Tournament basketball games, concerts, and even monster truck rallies. According to the report, the official groundbreaking will take place sometime this spring at a site just south of the Georgia Dome, with an expected finish date of 2017.
Previously, the Falcons included designs that show how soccer could be configured in an arena built for large crowds at an NFL game.
Professional soccer already exists in Atlanta with the North American Soccer League’s Atlanta Silverbacks, while last summer the Gold Cup quarterfinals were held at the Georgia Dome. An announced crowd of 54,229 watched Mexico defeat Trinidad and Tobago and Panama rout Cuba. Mexico has scheduled a match against Nigeria on March 5 at the Georgia Dome.
What do you think of this report? Think MLS will expand to Atlanta? Think that the league should expand elsewhere? Would you be OK with another MLS team playing home games in an NFL stadium?
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