USSF’s new home will be a paradise built on beautiful ground

Governor Brian Kemp (R) shakes hands with Arthur M. Blank during the ground breaking of the Arthur M. Blank U.S. Soccer National Training Center on Monday, April 8, 2024, in Atlanta, at State Farm Arena. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Jason Allen)

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Governor Brian Kemp (R) shakes hands with Arthur M. Blank during the ground breaking of the Arthur M. Blank U.S. Soccer National Training Center on Monday, April 8, 2024, in Atlanta, at State Farm Arena. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Jason Allen)

Drive 30 minutes south of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, or 20 minutes south of the airport, get off I-85 and drive another 10 minutes or so East past several car dealerships, down two-lane blacktops featuring a couple of small “Jesus saves” signs and a beautiful if not curiously place very large floral arrangement near the end of person’s driveway.

Look to the left at a beautiful plot of land featuring rolling hills and groves of old trees. There is the spot that may one day determine how many more trophies U.S. soccer teams will win, including the first-ever World Cup for the men’s team.

That spot, 200 acres of nature that felt welcoming on a beautiful spring day, will in a few years become the home of the U.S. Soccer’s first National Training Center in Fayette County. Rather, it will be home of the Arthur M. Blank National Training Center, an honorific bestowed on Monday to the owner of Atlanta United and the Falcons. The center, helped by a $50 million pledge from Blank, which will house the United States Soccer Federation’s 27 national teams, and its headquarters. It is the first national training center in USSF history.

The groundbreaking was held on Monday, complete with strategically placed large pieces of yellow construction equipment in the background. At the podium there were eight shovels with black handles and red blades, not coincidentally the colors of Atlanta United and the Falcons, ready to throw some mulch.

Blank was there, along with Gov. Brian Kemp, United States Soccer Federation President Cindy Parlow Cone, whose vision it was two years ago to build the center, and JT Batson, an Augusta native who was tasked with helping turn that dream into a reality. More than a hundred people attended the event, but perhaps none were happier than Parlow Cone.

“To finally be on the land that we’re going to build the next home of U.S. Soccer, it’s going to be home to all of our staff, to our 27 national teams, many youth players, and adult amateur players, just to have a place that we can call home to convene soccer in this country, I mean, there’s no words to describe it other than it’s literally a dream come true,” she said.

The idea of the center came to fruition with the help of Blank and his team, Dan Cathy, who helped find the land, and others in governmental positions. It has an estimated cost of $200 million, a price which Batson said the developers who will build the center have promised will not be exceeded.

It will include at least 12 outdoor fields, an indoor field, a gym and locker rooms that will total more than 100,000 square feet, and offices, administrative space that will total more than 20,000 square feet...anything needed to help the players on all the teams and those working for the federation to be the best they can be. Because the level of the ground elevates from the Southern end of the property to the north end, many of the fields will be built on tiered land, with most of the grass fields at the southern end, the office spaces in the middle, and some more fields and the turf fields at the northern end.

Blank said he knew within 10 minutes of Parlow Cone’s initial pitch to him that he was going to help her get the center built. Once done, the different teams will no longer have to caravan around the country to get together to prepare for friendlies and tournaments. Coaches and trainers will be able to share ideas on a common ground, rather than through Zoom. Referees can convene. It will be a facility to help grassroots efforts to grow the game.

“It’ll be just a fantastic facility,” Blank said. “And I think you’ll see later Atlanta become more and more of a national national mecca for soccer, which is what we’ve talked about.”

For those who grew up playing youth soccer in Georgia, or just fans of the sport, standing under the spacious white tent and watching the presentation induced goosebumps and chills of amazement at how much the sport has progressed within the state. A ticket sales record was set last weekend for the SheBelieves Cup, played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta United holds numerous attendance records for games in MLS, U.S. Open Cup matches, the All-Star match and the MLS Cup.

Now, the city will soon be the home of U.S. Soccer, as well as hosting part of this summer’s Copa America and eight matches in the 2026 World Cup. It could be also be part of the 2025 Club World Cup and the 2027 Women’s World Cup.

Kemp said that growing up in Georgia he never imagined that the city would become the capital of soccer in the U.S.

“It’s pretty amazing that you think about just how excited people are just for the SEC championship game,” e said. “Obviously, we’ve had Final Fours and basketball, national championship games, Super Bowls, but to think about this global sport -- really, it’s a worldwide sport -- we’re going to see that especially during the World Cup and have really U.S. Soccer headquartered here in Georgia, it’s a big statement for our state, for the city of Atlanta and the local Fayetteville community.”

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