U.S. Soccer moving to Atlanta

Arthur Blank donating $50 million for new National Training Center
United States defender Miles Robinson (12) moves the ball past Haiti midfielder Derrick Ettiene Jr. (1o) during the first half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Kansas City, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Credit: Charlie Riedel

Credit: Charlie Riedel

United States defender Miles Robinson (12) moves the ball past Haiti midfielder Derrick Ettiene Jr. (1o) during the first half of a CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer match Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Kansas City, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

With the help of Arthur Blank, the U.S. Soccer Federation is moving from Chicago to Atlanta, where it will build a new headquarters and its first National Training Center, which will be large enough to accommodate its 27 teams.

Blank, owner of Atlanta United and the Falcons, has pledged $50 million toward the endeavor.

The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors, led by CEO Cindy Parlow Cone, voted in a closed session Friday to approve the move. A press conference is scheduled to be held Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium before Atlanta United hosts Miami in an MLS match.

U.S. Soccer is negotiating with at least two sites in the metro area to host the center. The search is being led by U.S. Soccer CEO and Secretary General JT Batson. A decision is expected to be announced in January. There is not yet a timetable on the groundbreaking or when construction is expected to be completed. The U.S., along with Mexico and Canada, will host the World Cup in 2026. Atlanta is scheduled to be one of the host cities for tournament matches.

“America’s top athletes deserve the best when it comes to preparing them for competition on the global stage, and I’m thrilled U.S. Soccer has chosen metro Atlanta as its new home,” Blank said in a statement from USSF. “Atlanta’s incredible passion for soccer, corporate community and unmatched infrastructure make this a natural home for the national training center, and I’m very confident our community will help America’s finest soccer players compete on a global level like never before. I’m also pleased to help U.S. Soccer with community outreach and soccer development among underserved communities as part of our contribution and know that it will benefit scores of young people through engagement with the beautiful game for generations to come.”

Coca-Cola, headquartered in Atlanta, was announced in July as a long-term sponsor for U.S. Soccer. There are expected to be many levels of sponsors.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in July that Atlanta had emerged as the front-runner, ahead of Cary, North Carolina.

Atlanta city officials, including Blank as far back as 2016, have discussed turning the city into the soccer capital of the U.S. It is the home of Atlanta United, which has led MLS in attendance in each of its first six seasons and is leading the league again this season.

The national center is expected to be a hub to improve playing, coaching and refereeing through advances in technology, analysis and infrastructure. It will accommodate all of the youth teams of both genders, the men’s and women’s national teams, and the extended national teams, which includes the Beach, Deaf, Cerebral Palsy, Futsal and Power. A portion of the money donated by Blank will be dedicated toward the extended teams, particularly the locker rooms and training facilities. The site will host youth tournaments

“This National Training Center will accelerate the growth of soccer in this country and will represent a commitment to developing elite soccer players for decades to come,” Cone said in a statement from USSF. “Investing in youth and adult programs as well as our Extended National Teams reflects our commitment to ensuring that players of all ages and backgrounds can find a home and thrive in this sport. These investments are a signal to our players, coaches, referees, members and fans that the future of U.S. Soccer is bright.”

Blank’s donation also is earmarked to be used to help grow the game throughout the country on the boys’ and girls’ and men’s and women’s levels. Blank’s foundation will continue to invest in Soccer in the Streets and GA 100 to help grow the game throughout underserved communities in Georgia.

“U.S. Soccer’s new National Training Center will serve as a symbol of ambition and aspiration for all soccer players in our country for generations to come,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Arthur Blank and Atlanta United, along with countless fans and many public and private partners, have shown that Atlanta has become a true soccer city and will be the perfect home for our federation. For everyone who has believed in soccer in America, today is another historic day.”

The U.S. Soccer Federation was founded in 1913. It moved from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Chicago in 1991. It opened a national training center in 2003 in Carson, California, for $130 million. It included a stadium now the home of the L.A. Galaxy, four grass fields and a turf field. A national development center opened in Kansas City in 2018. It is more than 50 acres, buildings consisting of 81,000 square feet, and five fields. It cost $75 million to build.

Among Atlanta’s advantages for a training site include Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which makes it easy for players from around the world travel to and from their clubs, and weather that makes year-round training possible.

“Georgia is proud to welcome U.S. Soccer’s new headquarters and looks forward to working alongside them to build a new home for American soccer players and fans,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement to USSF. “For many decades, sports have been an essential part of Georgia’s history and culture. Events like the 1996 Olympics laid the groundwork for current and upcoming major attractions like the 2026 FIFA World Cup. From hosting visitors to training the next generation of athletes, we’re glad that this project will create new opportunities for local businesses and hardworking Georgians.”

“Atlanta is a sports town – and just like soccer in America, we are dynamic, diverse and passionate,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said. “There is no better place for this sport to call home during such a critical time. On behalf of the people of Atlanta, we are extremely honored to welcome U.S. Soccer to our community and look forward to this new partnership and our city becoming even more of a soccer destination than it already is.”

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who also owns Atlanta United, has added to his sports portfolio with an Atlanta team in the new TGL golf league.

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC