How Atlanta United conquered MLS and now plan to build a dynasty

That’s precisely what one team is planning as the 2019 playoffs kick off this weekend although the structure of Major League Soccer with its salary caps and draft system is assumed to mitigate against dynasties. It’s not New York Red Bulls or even Los Angeles Galaxy best positioned to make that occur. It is a team that had not kicked a ball.
Not everyone expected Atlanta United to succeed. Initially, their attendances have been dismissed as a trend. But the numbers have really increased and outcomes have followed too. They followed it up by getting the first US ensemble to defeat their Mexican counterparts, and won the mls picks and parlays Cup in just their second time, in 2018.
Atlanta United are now one of the 10 supported clubs on the planet based on their house attendances and are ranked as the most valuable franchise in Major League Soccer. President Darren Eales, a former British footballer turned secretary, has picked up an award as the best executive at the match.
How has all this been achieved?
Here, Eales explains the mould have broken.
Atlanta United had financial backing because of Arthur Blank, the man who began the retail chain Home Depot and also the owner of the NFL franchise, the Atlanta Falcons. But it took more than money to deliver success. It required planning — beginning as president with the appointment of Eales long ago as 2014.
«He two-and-a-half years until we kicked a ball,» Eales informs Sky Sports. «That was a fairly unusual decision because usually the way that teams would approach it’s that they would hire you only whenever the revenue starts coming and when you get started playing games. They’d wait till the final minute to hire. Rather, I had.
«It was significant as you don’t get another chance to make a first impression and this gave us the runway to be successful. It was a situation that is exceptional also because it was a club. It wasn’t like Orlando City that was in the league already. We were completely new so in addition to putting a group together, there was that the kit and the whole identity»
The possession of the Falcons of blank demonstrated a substantial advantage for United since it enabled them to discuss knowledge and thoughts using a franchise that had knowledge from the US sports market. In addition, it meant that the owner himself was aware of a few of the factors in a team’s victory that could have been overlooked by someone savvy.
«Our owner understood the value of a training ground due to the Falcons,» says Eales. «We built one which is among the very best in North America. Since he realised that your identity is set by this when you try to recruit gamers, it had been an easy sell to him. Having the Falcons for instance was a true boon for us in terms of that infrastructure.
«It also helped me with all the draft which was all new to me. Although it’s a different sport, Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff, general director and the head coach of the Falcons, let me sit in on a couple of their drafts and it gave me this idea of how you approach it. How can you prepare? When your pick becomes taken by the team prior to you, what do you do?
«Being able to analyse little matters like that well beforehand really put us up for victory. We had an selection and a second choice While I look at our first MLS draft. We travelled with Miles Robinson, a youthful centre-back who has only played for the national group, and Julian Gressel who was one of our most important players for the previous three decades.»
Players such as Robinson and Gressel have become figures at the heart but that is normal. It would have been tempting to allow Eales to appear to make a impression by bringing in a celebrity name. Lots were available. He went with a very different strategy.
«Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Bastian Schweinsteiger,» says Eales. «They had been the gamers others were signing. The concept was that attention would be attracted by it but we knew we had that groundswell of service our goal was just to put the most exciting team on the pitch that we could in the belief that lovers could grow to adore those players.
«The time was appropriate because the team had got better. Coupled with the fact that we’d attracted in Tata Martino, the former Barcelona and also Argentina trainer, it meant we could draw in the talent. You can shoot younger gift and toss it to them that they could come here and provide us a good a few years before moving on to one of the greatest leagues.
«It functioned. I am rather proud that we’ve created our very own stars. By the end of this year, Miguel Almiron’s was the top in MLS. That only shows that in the event you supply intriguing new talent to fans they’ll grow to love them. So that we demonstrated that the concept, miguel got his move into the Premier League. We revealed it does not have to become a retirement league.»
Almiron’s fame was a manifestation of the fact that the club had targeted a specific kind of supporter in the city. In a bid they didn’t go in search. Get them engaged and the plan was to target those enthusiastic about the game.
«This was a somewhat different focus to other people,» Eales describes. «We made a conscious decision not to target people who might be interested in soccer. We went for the fans who loved the sport of football. We made them feel like they had been part of a movement. We used the fact that we started from scratch to deliver them together on the journey.
«Our joke is that we have pub-crawled our strategy to success. In those first two-and-a-half years after they showed Premier League games in the evenings in Atlanta wherever they were, we encourage and engage and would head out with them. We moved to federal team parties. That sort of got us that momentum which has taken it to a new level.
«We averaged 48,000 lovers in the first year and folks said it was just because it was the shiny new item. Then the next year we got to 53,000. This season, has us and we’re in 55,000. Our fans have become our ambassadors and we’ve been able to develop .»
The question of how much more than Atlanta United may grow is a catchy one. Sustaining success in Major League Soccer is. The type of growth a successful staff in football may expect to currently enjoy is instead curtailed. It’s a source of frustration for both Eales.
«The most difficult thing to do is that if you become winners at the Premier League it is possible to give everyone a tiny rise as a well performed,» he explains. «After winning the MLS Cup, everyone feels as though they deserve a pay increase but should you want to provide a person a rise in MLS then you have to trade somebody else since you only have a limited amount of money.
«That has been an eye-opener for me since you are expecting that you could bask in the glory of this achievement but rather we had to make some challenging decisions due to the salary cap. We ended up trading our left-back merely to make cap room. Because we would like to compete against the groups it is actually tough.
«We did figure out how to beat Club America in the Campeones Cup, that’s the winner of Liga MX versus the winner of the MLS Cup, thus we’ve proven that we can compete in a one-off game. But this was because we had everyone match and we were in the center of the season. We need to work about how we can improve our strength.
«For example, we had a scenario where we were knocked out of the Champions League by Monterrey however they were attracting Rodolfo Pizarro off the bench, a $16m participant. Since we have a couple injuries Our full-back might be getting $. So that is the tricky part. But little steps are being made by us. It’s getting better»
Eales has been also recruited because of the wisdom and experience that he had obtained at West Bromwich Albion and manager of football operations as company secretary at Tottenham. It may amuse both sets of supporters to understand that Eales credits his time as giving him»a good grounding» for getting used to functioning with a salary reduction in MLS.
However, given the remarkable achievement he has appreciated in constructing a team from scratch from the States there are lessons that English football can learn from Atlanta United currently too. In the prices of these hot dogs to the fan engagement, it is tempting to think Premier League clubs can learn lots from their US counterparts.
«It is not for you to take enthusiasts for granted in the Premier League but there is not that identical amount of urgency because the TV money is really enormous,» adds Eales. «There are waiting lists for season tickets and most clubs have this affinity for the club passed through the generations — that their father was a Spurs supporter so now they are a Spurs supporter.
«As a consequence, it’s easy to become complacent and maybe not every choice a Premier League club which creates is always made out of all the supporters in mind. For all of us, I can honestly say that the first thing we think about is the way that the fans will be impacted by our decisions. We have to win minds and hearts so we cannot afford to take them for granted»
What’s clear is that as Atlanta United prepare to begin their playoff campaign against New England Revolution on Saturday, Eales is appreciating it more than ever. «It is a great city and it is a fantastic league,» he says. «I quite enjoy the idea of being a pioneer here as we try to grow the sport. I am in no hurry to return»