Atlanta has always had a great sporting reputation, not just in "football". Hosting the Olympics in 1996, The Braves had won the Baseball World Series the previous year and is the birthplace of Bobby Jones, the only golfer to win the Grand Slam and co-founder of the Masters tournament.
But now there is a new incredible passion for "our" type of football. Atlanta United FC, with former Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan and former Burnley and Wigan player Chris McCann on their roster, averaged 52,000 admissions this season , over 10,000 more than any other MLS team.
It also puts them in the top 15 clubs for presences around the world. Higher than Chelsea and Everton, for example.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium of Atlanta United before a game against the New England Revolution
The MLS club has an average door of almost 52,000, more than most Premier League clubs
Their passionate fans show a cheer with the Phoenix of Atlanta, a symbol of pride for the city
What is particularly notable is the speed with which Atalanta fever has spread. The city was awarded an MLS franchise in 2014 and started playing only in 2017.
Their success has rewarded the vision of Arthur Blank, billionaire founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons NFL team.
Blank thought there was more market for football in the south than it was made and spent two years assembling the team behind the scenes, then gave them a new ground, the Mercedes-Benz stadium, before a ball was kicked . The results were spectacular.
Outside the field, the recruitment of former Spurs manager Darren Eales was fundamental. "I'm eager to engage fans in the process, creating an incredible atmosphere at our meetings," he said upon his arrival.
Today, the Atlanta games are famous for their noise, their colors, their banners, the klaxons and the loudest thundercloud you'll ever hear in a sporting venue, accompanied by A-T-L songs. It is a powerful mixture of San Siro, Maracana and the old English school.
On the field, Atlanta has invested in young, hungry and extravagant South American players. Blank checks signed for Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez, Paraguayan midfielder Miguel Almiron and an Argentine teenager, Ezequiel Barco, who has become the most expensive purchase of the MLS at £ 10 million.
The appointment of the former head of Barcelona Gerardo Martino at the helm gave the club an immediate credibility.
The former Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan is one of the most famous names in the Atlanta team
The former head of Barcelona Gerardo Martino (right) is now head of the growing MLS club
The former Burnley and Wigan striker, Chris McCann, is now lining up in Atlanta's midfield
All this has given lies to the fact that a very American city like Atlanta was introverted and insular.
The city became crazy while the team reached the play-offs last year. Their distinctive red and black stripe is regularly seen shaped by fans around the six million metropolitan area.
"The way people have embraced it is what you play football for," says McCann.
ATLANTA UNITED FC
Foundation: April 2014
Nickname: The Five Stripes
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (capacity 72.243)
Owner: Arthur Blank
Responsible: Gerardo Martino
Notable players: Brad Guzan, Michael Parkhurst (captain), Greg Garza, Darlington Nagbe, Josef Martínez, Chris McCann
Why has United become so popular? Several factors have helped. Atlanta's more traditional teams like The Braves are not as strong as they used to be. There are no other MLS franchises nearby, which means that two-hour football fans will come to support United.
Atlanta "immigrants" from other parts of America may have maintained their support for their NFL club, be it New York, Chicago or Dallas, but they are all unified to support soccer boys .
In July, Atlanta broke the MLS attendance record when 72,000 witnessed the game against Seattle Sounders. There are four different groups of groups of supporters; the Ultras that drive the song. Each of them is known as Terminus Legion, The Faction, Footie Mob and Resurgence, and they all play a huge part in creating the unique sense of opportunity in Atlanta games.
"We have rituals that can be prevalent in South America or in European football, but we have the touch of Atlanta," says Eales. We go out of the players to do the Spike Walk from our coach.
The success of the club is the result of Arthur Blank (left), their billionaire owner and founder in 2014
The forward Josef Martinez is just one of the players who helps to assert Atlanta as new power
"They will walk down the bus and cross the crowd past the big gold peak we have." Players will sign this peak, walk among the fans and then descend into the locker room. "
Last month, when the "Five Stripes", known for the black cut of their red jerseys, they beat the New England Revolution 2-1 with 16 year old George Bello who scored one of the goals.
It was marked by plumes of smoke and a good old man & # 39; Goooooal … "cry from the TV commenting team. Everyone in the crowd seems to have a giant and colorful flag to wave, like a 1970s FA Cup final at Wembley.
Martino understands English quite enough to ask questions in that language, even if he prefers a translator to give answers. For a season, 2013-14, he directed Lionel Messi in Barcelona. It did not seem as fun as it is now.
This weekend, with the home advantage at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they have a 1-0 lead to protect against New York City in the semifinal of the Conference semi-finals.
I am a slight lead ahead of Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls to win the MLS Cup this year and if that happens, Atlanta will confirm its status as the new first city of American football.
The atmosphere of Atlanta's home games is becoming famous for its color and noise
Atlanta is a passionate sports city, but many of their fans come from afar to see the team