ATLANTA — Darren Eales sensed the potential for a rabid soccer fan base in Atlanta long before the expansion United first took the field.
The Atlanta United president just didn't know how quickly it would blossom.
Atlanta leads the MLS in attendance, averaging 46,482 fans per game. The Seattle Sounders (42,628), the longtime league leaders in attendance, are second. The average attendance for an MLS game is 21,327.
"I thought it would take us more time to create that soccer culture and our own Atlanta United culture, but from day one it's been the most unbelievable atmosphere," Eales said. "The fans stand for the whole 90 minutes. They've got their own chants with Tifos, big flags that flail before a game."
And this is all occurring in the team's temporary home.
The club has played its home games at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium while construction continues on the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which the United will share with the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank owns both teams. The first United game in the new stadium is scheduled for Sept. 10.
It's undetermined how many seats will be made available in the new stadium, or if the upper deck will initially be cordoned off for United games, but Eales says they've discussed opening the stadium up to its 75,000 capacity for select games if the demand is there.
The team's early strategy to cultivate a fan base was very deliberate.
"We started off that initial excitement and