Behind the MLS Ambition Rankings: Atlanta United
How much money has your team spent in the past five years on youth development? How much in the past year?
Our new $60 million training facility is to be used by both our academy and first team and has been designed and built with youth development being an integral part of the facility. It will also be used as a base for grass roots soccer initiatives including coach education and referee training.
How many homegrown players have you signed? How many have played in MLS league games for your first team?
Two, Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin. We were the first MLS team to launch our academy, at all five age groups, over a year before our first team and our first league game. Both Carleton and Goslin have played for our first team during MLS preseason matches.
How many season-ticket holders do you have? How many did you have in 2016?
As of Feb. 27, we have over 30,000 season ticket holders for our inaugural season, a record for an expansion team, and sales are continuing.
Where does your first team train? Did you build the training facility yourself? If so, how much did it cost?
On March 2, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta was named the official naming partner of Atlanta United’s Marietta, Georgia, training ground. The privately funded, state-of-the-art training ground, featuring six full-length fields (grass and turf) will be completed in April 2017. This Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground also houses club technical staff, academy teams and front office staff.
Did your team build its own stadium? If yes, how much money did the team spend on the stadium?
Yes. Atlanta United will move into its permanent home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in late summer 2017. The $1.5 billion stadium will be a world-class venue and will feature soccer-specific configuration for Atlanta United matches: seating areas in the corners retract to allow a full-size FIFA pitch; down-sizing mechanism for the upper bowl to create a more intimate atmosphere; Atlanta United dedicated locker room and facilities.
Do you have a USL affiliate? How big is your budget this year for your USL team?
We currently have an affiliation with Charleston Battery. As of Feb. 24, we have one contracted player on loan for the 2017 season with Charleston. In 2016, we had four contracted players earn minutes in Charleston.
How much money have you spent in the three previous years on Designated Players (transfer fees and salary)? How much are you spending on Designated Players this year?
We have signed three Designated Players under the age of 24; Miguel Almiron (Paraguayan National Team, played in 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying and the 2016 Copa America Centenario), Josef Martinez (Venezuelan National Team) and Hector Villalba (first designated player in Atlanta United history).
How much TAM have you spent since its inception in the middle of 2015 (including this year)?
We have used TAM in a number of ways to help build our inaugural roster.
How would you describe your investment in and use of data analytics? How many full-time analytics employees do you have?
We are very invested in data analytics. We hired Lucy Rushton as our Head of Technical Scouting from Reading FC in the UK over a year before we started our first game. We have also hired Ryan Alexander, from U.S. Soccer, as our Head of Sports Science who has extensive experience in data analytics including GPS analysis. This use of data analytics is not only for the first team but is something we have integrated vertically throughout the academy.
On the business side, we work with the AMB Sports & Entertainment analytics team on key strategic issues such as ticket pricing and email marketing. They oversee our fan surveying and operate our new Fan Council, which provides us valuable fan feedback to allow us to listen and respond to fans as we build the club.
Who is your jersey sponsor? What’s your total income on sponsorships this season?
Our jersey sponsor is American Family Insurance. We are the top MLS club in sponsorship revenue (without its own soccer stadium). American Family is one of very few Fortune 500 companies to be on a jersey front, and by selling sponsorship of the academy kits separately, we have created incremental revenue for the club and have been able to partner with a major financial company and local employer, SunTrust.
Local TV deal: How many of your games this season are shown on local television? How much is your local TV deal worth per season? How big is your budget for presenting local TV broadcasts? Do your broadcasters travel on the road for local TV broadcasts?
We recently announced our local broadcast partner FOX Sports South and FOX Regional Networks. We will be covered in six states (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi), will have 19 games on local television and 15 on national television. Our broadcast team of three (play by play, analyst, sideline reporter) will travel to every broadcast, including all road matches.
How many front-office employees does your team have? How many have you added or subtracted in the past year?
We have approximately 100 front-office employees and growing.
What other sorts of details should we know about your club that are a good barometer of the club’s ambition?
On the pitch, we are very excited about the mix of young, talented players we will feature on the first team for our inaugural season, including three DP’s under the age of 24, along with a solid mix of MLS veterans. We have also achieved great success with our academy teams with the U-18 and U-16 Atlanta United Academy squads ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country, respectively, and 20 academy players having been called up internationally. Off the pitch, we are thrilled about the excitement and passion for the club in the city of Atlanta, as evidenced by our season ticket numbers, ranking us second in the league with over 30,000 sold before our first match.