Atlanta United has been one of the most exciting team to watch in the MLS and the crowd’s they’re drawing is changing the idea of what is possible for MLS soccer today. Last year the team very quickly established itself as a quality team that was going to compete in the MLS immediately. While the team has been exciting to watch and follow, there are still some big challenges and goals in front of the team this year.
These next couple months could be very key to the culture Atlanta United is trying to establish. Arthur Blank wants them to be a premier team not only in the MLS, but in North America. Blank wants a culture of winning in Atlanta and while grounded in reality, he’s not going to be happy losing early in the playoffs. Blank has been building soccer facilities all around Atlanta in an effort to drive more involvement. He knows that establishing that championship culture with titles can be paramount to building that foundation. This means that the next 50 days will be some of the biggest for establishing this culture. Lets review some of the big milestones and accomplishments Atlanta has in front of them over the next 2 months and how they go about accomplishing them.
Record for regular season points
Atlanta has a chance to break Toronto’s record last year for points in a regular season which sits at 68. United is currently positioned with 66 points and two matches left. A win Sunday over Chicago would give them the record at 69 and a chance to be the first team to break 70 points
Maintain a 50%+ winning percentage
Currently Atlanta United have played a total of 66 matches and have won an unprecedented 35 of them. Atlanta currently have won 54.5% of all matches played which would be the best of all MLS teams. Certainly it is a small sample size being on two season and team like the LA Galaxy (currently owns highest win %) who have played 736 matches and won 47.8% of them. A win Sunday would guarantee they finish the year (regardless of playoff results) with an above 50% winning %.
#1 Seed for Playoffs
Technically United can only seal the #1 seed this year with some help Sunday from New York, but a win would would keep Atlanta United in control of their destiny. Currently they’re 1 point up on NY and a win accompanied with a NY loss would lock Atlanta into the #1 seed for the playoffs. Currently that would be a bye and potential matchup with DC United.
Atlanta United could lock their spot and a chance at winning the CONCACAF champions league. This could also be a huge part of what Blank wants to accomplish in Atlanta. The winning culture is bigger than just within the US. United has shown a willingness to go after talent pools in Latin and South America. Part of what will be key to the success long term is establishing that culture of winning on an international scale. This will attract young players to further want to come to Atlanta to not only improve their skills but learn how to win championships.
Atlanta United needs to win now as they have the roster to do so. Miguel Almiron is looking more and more likely to be in the winter market in the Europe next year. Atlanta still has several young players who show a lot of potential to follow in Almiron’s footsteps. However, its important to take advantage of players and talent when you have them. Atlanta has a chance with a young energetic roster mixed with some mid development talent and one of the best scorers in MLS to be more than just a good regular season team. Anything less than at minimum an appearance in the MLS Cup would be a major disappointment for what has been a very great start to a franchise. These final two regular season games are about setting the stage for the big stage coming up. Locking the #1 seed, regular season record, and a qualifying spot will be the first of several big steps the franchise has in front of them. The future is very bright, but these next few months could set the precedence for what this franchise will be all about going into the future.