Atlanta United FC, the name for the MLS expansion team that will begin play in new downtown stadium in 2017, is one that will stand the test of time, franchise president Darren Eales said on Thursday.
“We wanted a name that is authentic,” Eales said. “It’s a very traditional name, but there will be so much more (about the brand) that will be led by our fans as we ramp up to 2017.”
The team was supposed to unveil its name and icon on July 7 at a private party for the members of its Founder’s Club, a group that has pledged to purchase more than 21,000 season tickets. However, Sports Illustrated reported the name of the team on Thursday, which means that the icon will be the big surprise on July 7.
Eales said the name is authentic because it reflects the voices of the team’s supporters, some of whom were used in focus groups and surveys designed to get a sense of what they thought about Atlanta and what elements of the city and soccer they wanted associated with the club.
Within the results of one of the surveys, Eales said 89 percent of respondents felt FC should be associated with the name. Responding to another question, 91 percent wanted an international style of name, rather than an American style name that would include a mascot. The words Atlanta and Unity were highly rated by respondents.
From those results came Atlanta United FC.
“This is what our fans were giving us: a name that identified with the city, but allows the fans to develop customs and an identities,” Eales said.
The name has been the big mystery since owner Arthur Blank led the efforts to secure the team, which was introduced in April 2014. Eales, formerly of Tottenham Hotspur in England, was hired to run the club, followed soon by technical director Carlos Bocanegra and vice president of business operations Ann Rodriguez. The color scheme of red, black and gold has dominated the team’s introduction and emails from the club to its Founder’s Club members.
Atlanta United FC would become the second United in MLS, joining D.C. United, whose colors also feature black and red. Eales said once the Atlanta United FC icon is unveiled on July 7 and the jerseys revealed at a later date, supporters likely will see the uniqueness of the Atlanta United FC brand.
Reaction has been mostly lukewarm to the reported name on social media, with some describing it as “process cheese food of soccer names.”
“I hate the name,” Andrew Walker wrote in an email. “Let’s be practical. There is already a United team in the East with red and black colors in DC. There is already a second announced United FC team coming to the league in Minnesota.
“It does not have anything to do with Atlanta, Georgia, or even the Southeast. It is bland, unoriginal, and makes me wonder why I wasted my time filling out surveys thanks to my $50 ticket deposit.”
Others like it.
“Its simple,” Taylor Noland wrote in an email. “The color scheme is clean and perfect. It provides brand flexibility. And it allows the Terminus Legion supporters group to remain as is.
“Detractors will say, ‘United’ does not fit a city as divided as Atlanta. But this City needs uniting. As ‘True to Atlanta’ did for the city, so to can ‘Atlanta United.’ It should no longer be such a bad thing for the City to be United.”
Eales said they didn’t want to give supporters a list of names and ask them to pick one because he said it can be polarizing, citing the name Atlanta Phoenix as an example. Some people like it because the bird is part of the city’s seal. Others didn’t because Phoenix is also the name of a major metropolitan city.
“The reality is the whole club will be about more than the name,” Eales said. “It will include what team we put on the field, how we engage with the fans. From our perspective, this is a name that identified with the city, identified with our fans…this is the name that they want.
“Now we will continue the other brand elements. This is only the start of the journey. The singing, chanting, rituals on match day. All that’s still to come.”