Atlanta United now only recommends masks upon entering stadium

Atlanta United fans cheer on The Five Stripes as they prepare to play Philadelphia Union in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals Tuesday, April 27, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Atlanta United fans cheer on The Five Stripes as they prepare to play Philadelphia Union in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals Tuesday, April 27, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Atlanta United changed its policy and now will only recommend, and not require, fans to wear masks when entering Mercedes-Benz Stadium, according to a team representative. The policy change will begin with Saturday night’s game against CF Montreal.

The change comes following revised CDC guidelines this week that state fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors. Atlanta United still will require masks to be worn in two areas of the stadium – access to field level seating and patio spaces. The requirement is per MLS protocols, the team said.

In a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the representative said: “We will follow the updated CDC guidelines stating that it is safe to attend indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask as well as those received from Major League Soccer. Recognizing that all fans may not be fully vaccinated at this time, masks are recommended for entry into Mercedes-Benz Stadium. …

“We will continue to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC and public health agencies, and will evaluate on a match-by-match basis.”

Atlanta United has expanded to 100% capacity in the two lower bowls at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. A crowd of close to 40,000 is expected, the largest in 14 months. The roof of the stadium will be open, weather permitting.

Atlanta United has had a mask requirement for entering the stadium and when seated unless actively eating or drinking in previous less-than-capacity games at the stadium this year. However, the policy while seated was not actively enforced. Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of Atlanta United and the Falcons, acknowledged to the AJC this week, before the CDC change in guidelines, that enforcement “will be spotty” for Saturday’s increased capacity before the change.

“Our security teams know light touch, soft touch, but we’re not going to get into confrontations with folks on mask policies,” he said.

- Staff writers Helena Oliviero and Tim Tucker contributed to this article.