Men’s, women’s pro soccer teams in Roswell generating ownership interest

Atlanta United 2's Chris Allan (8) attempts to cut off the advance of a Birmingham Legion attacker during a USL match Sunday, May 30, 2021, at Fifth Third Stadium in Kennesaw. (Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United

Credit: Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United 2's Chris Allan (8) attempts to cut off the advance of a Birmingham Legion attacker during a USL match Sunday, May 30, 2021, at Fifth Third Stadium in Kennesaw. (Mitchell Martin/Atlanta United)

Several potential owners have expressed interest in the potential new USL women’s and men’s teams that may be coming to Roswell, USL deputy CEO Justin Papadakis said Tuesday.

The city and the league announced Monday night a public/private partnership to build a stadium with a capacity of as many as 15,000 seats as part of a new mixed-use sports and entertainment district with a women’s soccer team as the anchor. It would be the largest complex of its kind in the world, Papadakis, who grew up in Roswell, said. A site has not been selected but Papadakis said they hope to have that done by the end of the year.

Everyone knows how much interest there is in soccer in Atlanta,” he said. “And our goal is to show that Atlanta is also the city for women’s soccer. We have had a lot of (people) reach out, unsurprisingly, and we look forward to having those conversations to really put together an ownership group that shares that vision number one, and that we think will be the best custodians of what’s going to be a very special club.”

The USL women’s league, called the Super League, will plays in the first division on the international soccer calendar, with its inaugural season starting in August. The USL men’s league, called the Championship, plays in the second division.

Papadakis said that after the structure of the deal is in place and the site is selected, it would take 18-24 months to build the stadium. He said they want to build it correctly, not quickly. They are hoping to start play possibly as early as 2026 to take advantage of the interest that will be generated from the eight World Cup matches that will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta also may host part of the 2027 Women’s World Cup, if the U.S. and Mexico are selected by FIFA as joint hosts. The city already is the home of Atlanta United, which has led MLS in attendance in each of its first seven seasons. U.S. Soccer Federation soon will break ground in Fayette County on its new headquarters and training center.

Those who have interest in owning the franchise are mostly Atlanta-based, Papadakis said. He said the USL focuses on having local owners. The men’s league features 24 teams. The women’s league has eight teams. Atlanta is the largest market in the U.S. that doesn’t have a women’s pro team in either the NWSL or the Super League.

USL is structured differently than MLS. Franchises in USL keep their local revenues and own their players. Like in MLS, there will be an expansion fee required to join.

“We take a lot of pride in growing the game around the country, but to do that and to have such a shared vision with the mayor, and the city council about doing it in your hometown, that’s special,” he said. “And we’re going to deliver a special project and a special club to Roswell.”

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