NWSL franchise owned by Blank in Atlanta a possibility

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank watches from the sidelines as his team falls to 1-7 with a 27-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL football game on Sunday, October 27, 2019, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment is considering starting a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) franchise in Atlanta, though there is no specific timetable for doing so, according to Brett Jewkes, chief communications officer for AMBSE.

Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated reported on Sunday that Atlanta United could bring an NWSL franchise to the city as early as 2021, but that it was waiting on information about U.S. Soccer's role with the league. NWSL held its championship game on Sunday. There were reports earlier this season about Atlanta United's possible interest in an NWSL franchise.

“We’ve had very preliminary discussions with the National Women’s Soccer League about a possible franchise in Atlanta,” Jewkes wrote in an email on Monday. “We are evaluating a wide-range of factors to review and consider with no definitive timetable to complete that process. The growing success and appeal of women’s soccer in America, both at the professional and amateur levels, is exciting and certainly worthy of our careful exploration.”

In 2018, Blank, who owns Atlanta United in MLS and the Falcons in the NFL, said when asked about the possibility of starting a women's professional team, "I would like to think aspirationally that it might be something at the right time to consider."

NWSL was founded in 2012. It currently has nine teams, five which are affiliated with men’s teams in either MLS or USL. Sacramento is reportedly scheduled to join in 2020 and Louisville is scheduled to join in 2021. Three teams have folded in the past years. The 2019 schedule started in mid-April.

Atlanta United won the MLS Cup last season, the Campeones Cup and U.S. Open Cup this season, and will host Toronto in the MLS Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday. The team has led MLS in attendance in each of its past three seasons and owns most of its attendance records.

Atlanta United's $60 million training center and grounds in Marietta features six fields, including a small stadium that can seat as many as 2,500 spectators. The team earlier this season purchased for $9.6 million 17 acres adjacent to the 33 acres that compose the training ground. The team has yet to say on the record what the land will be used for. The offices of Atlanta United are filled.

Atlanta United has experience operating other teams. It has Atlanta United 2, which plays in the USL.

The Atlanta Silverbacks and the Atlanta Beat were the most recent forays into women’s professional soccer in the city. The Beat, owned by T. Fitz Johnson, played at Kennesaw State and was a member of the Women’s Professional Soccer league. The team played three seasons, 2009-11, before the league folded in Jan. 2012. The Silverbacks played in the USL W-League from 2005-15 and the Women’s Premier Soccer League in 2016.

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