MLS, Soccer

Why yesterday’s 3-0 win for Atlanta United matters more than you might think.

The Future of Atlanta United FC
Yesterday saw yet another win for Atlanta United FC, however, we won’t see it reflect in the standings or stat lines or points.  When Atlanta United beat the Charleston Battery 3-0, it had a seemingly unfamiliar significance to it.
Like every other MLS team, this week saw Atlanta United’s first action in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.  The U.S. Open cup is an open tournament that sees the smaller clubs from around the US take their shots at each other for a chance to play against the MLS squads in order to move forward in the tournament.
What does this mean exactly?
Yesterday was round 4.  Meaning the non-MLS team Charleston Battery had to play 3 single elimination rounds before meeting Atlanta United at Kennesaw State for the their shot at advancing.  The ultimate goal of all these teams is to hoist the cup at the end and claim a championship.
Winning the cup has it’s perks of course.  One such perk is the $300,000 cash prize at the end.  Now that’s a good chunk of change.  It might not be so big for the MLS clubs but if you happen to be on a smaller club who makes a strong run for the championship then that’s a good lump sum.
Coincidentally, the last non-MLS team to make the championship was the Charleston Battery in 2008.  However, the last non-MLS to win the tournament were the Rochester Rhinos in 1999.
Besides money and a nice looking trophy, a grander prize awaits the winner at the end of the rainbow. A berth into the CONCACAF Champions League.
Tata Martino (AUFC Coach) has stressed his views for the future of Atlanta United and he has a vision that goes beyond winning the MLS.
Every year the MLS crowns a champion through the MLS Cup with the Phillip F. Anschutz Trophy.  The team with the most points and best record/most wins is awarded the Supporter’s Shield.  There are also 2 Conference Champions.
When it comes to the CONCACAF Champions League (not to be confused with the UEFA Champions League, although it’s a similar concept) the MLS Cup winner, Supporter’s Shield recipient, and the other regular season conference champion are all awarded berths into the Champions League.
How does this relate to Atlanta’s win over Charleston last night?
Although I’ve given 3 ways to get into the Champions League, there is 1 other way to get in.  Winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is the other direct line of entry into the prestigious tournament.  Yes, that means if somehow Charleston were to have defeated Atlanta United and go on to win the cup, they would book their entry into the following CONCACAF Champions League.
How do you grow MLS and Soccer in the U.S.?  One way is to win championships globally.
The United States have only 2 teams to ever win the Champions League.  With MLS growing every year and the level of competition increasing, Atlanta United want to get to the top of MLS in every way possible to grow MLS and US Soccer to a level that can compete globally.
Tata Martino understands this.
Maybe he won’t be around for the long haul (I hope he is) but there is a future for Atlanta United.  As it sits, Atlanta United is 1st in the Eastern Conference and 1st in the Supporters’ Shield.  If we hold on to those positions we’ll get our 1st invitation to the Champions League.  If we slip down the standings then winning the MLS Cup is another way to solidify our invitation.  However, if those fail us, then we still have the U.S. Open Cup as an opportunity to make our 1st appearance.
Now that we’ve moved on into the Round of 16 and will host the Chicago Fire, we have put ourselves in a strong position for a Champions League berth.  Granted nothing is guaranteed and we still have a long season ahead of us, but this is what we want.
The year is filled with exciting Soccer from around the world.  We are almost always looking to win something.  Whether it’s the Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup, or U.S. Open Cup, we want to also add CONCACAF Champions League to that list.
But that’s not all!
If somehow we were to not only be MLS/US Open champions as well as the Champions League Winner, there is 1 more event that is the crown of all crowns for club teams around the world, the FIFA Club World Cup.  The FIFA Club World Cup is a tournament of select champions from around the globe who battle for supremacy of the world.  The winner of this tournament can officially be labeled the best club in the World!
It’s hard not to get excited about the potential of MLS and Atlanta United moving forward.  Year after year we are literally playing the game to be crowned the best in the world!  I’m excited just thinking about it!  This year it was Real Madrid.  In the future, it would be amazing to see Atlanta United FC with such a distinction.  That’s the future we’re hoping to build towards.
The world stage is open for the taking.  Getting an MLS team in such a position would be huge for soccer in the United States.  Getting Atlanta United onto that stage would be a dream come true for me and thousands of other fans.  Though we have to start small and work it one game at a time, beating Charleston means we get one step closer to the ultimate goal, a shot at the world stage.
(And eventually global domination)

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