Quickly adding to its impressive resume of marquee events, Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host Major League Soccer’s all-star game next summer against a yet-to-be determined opponent.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber delivered the announcement at the stadium Monday, praising the success of Atlanta United FC’s first season in the league.
“Atlanta United’s success is one of the most compelling and impressive expansion team launches in the history of pro sports,” Garber said, “and a testament to (Atlanta United owner) Arthur Blank’s vision and leadership, and the tremendous team that he has built both on and off the field.”
United wrapped up its first regular season a day earlier in the same building, drawing 2-2 with Supporters Shield winner Toronto FC to conclude its first campaign in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and earning a first round home game Thursday against the Columbus Crew. Atlanta became the fourth expansion team in MLS history to reach the playoffs in its first season, matching the feats of the Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion in 1998 and the Seattle Sounders in 2009.
The MLS record crowd of 71,874 at Sunday’s game highlighted the commitment of the club and city to the game of soccer, Garber said.
“Yesterday’s record crowd … is just the latest example (of Atlanta’s success),” the commissioner said. “It’s sort of like the icing on what has been a cake that’s been baking for so many years.”
Blank, also the owner of the Atlanta Falcons who play at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, spoke of hosting the all-star game as another benefit of the nearly 15-year process of bringing the new facility and an MLS franchise to Atlanta.
“When we started out this venture of building the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, we approached the mayor, approached the governor, approached the (Atlanta) City Council,” Blank said. “We said at those times that we wanted the stadium to not only host these two great franchises, but to be the home for important events in Atlanta.”
Other headline events coming to Mercedes-Benz Stadium include the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship in January, Super Bowl LIII in 2019 and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in 2020.
Atlanta coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino will head the MLS side in the all-star game against a club that will be determined later. The MLS all-stars faced Spanish side Real Madrid in the 2017 contest. Previous opponents have included Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea from England, Italy’s AS Roma, and Germany’s Bayern Munich.
The all-star event, sponsored by Target, will also include the Homegrown Game, a contest between players from MLS club academies. Atlanta products Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin were part of the 2017 squad.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta Sports Council President Dan Corso and Target Senior VP of Marketing William White also spoke at the event.