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Cover Story: Atlanta soccer's winners and losers

Cash those checks, Arthur! And could the Braves feel a pinch?

ARTHUR BLANK

One of Atlanta's richest men might get a wee bit richer. Of course Blank keeps cash from merchandise and ticket sales. But Blank will also get to keep revenues from parking and concessions at the new stadium, where the as-yet-unnamed team will play. What better way to fill the stadium up than with a tenant he owns? He will also get a slice of the league's $90 million-a-year TV deal. According to Forbes, 10 of the league's 19 teams made a profit in 2013. Blank paid out anywhere from $70 million to $100 million to win the MLS franchise. Should the team be as wildly popular as Seattle's Sounders, one of the league's most popular, Blank could recoup that cash relatively quickly.

ATLANTA SILVERBACKS

What role the team will play remains uncertain. Blank said after the MLS expansion announcement that both teams have had talks about the future. He didn't cite specifics, but the options could include anything from co-existing with the MLS to the Silverbacks becoming a farm team. Or it could be sold. Until 2017, however, the team could enjoy larger crowds — it recorded an average attendance of 4,702 and wants to accommodate as many 10,000 — as fans anticipate MLS' arrival. As more and more people play the sport, the complex's other fields could fill up with even more rec teams.

THE ATLANTA BRAVES

According to a 2013 ESPN poll, MLS is now tied with Major League Baseball when it comes to avid fans between the ages of 12 and 17. And among that key 18- to 34-year-old demographic, it's tied for second with the NBA — and is ahead of baseball. The Atlanta Braves season usually lasts from late February to September. The MLS preseason starts in late February and the official seasons ends in November. Though MLS teams play once a week there is potential for games to overlap during the eight-month period, and for a shift in loyalty among fans who are sore over the team's decision to leave behind Atlanta and move to Cobb County.

THE KIDDOS

Decades ago in metro Atlanta there were a few places in Georgia where kids could play soccer. Today, there are complexes and camps around the region and across the state. Georgia has 80,513 youth soccer players, the 11th highest number among the 50 states, according to the U.S. Census and soccer officials. These players will now get to see world-class players compete and have opportunities to learn from them and team officials. In addition, Blank will take a cue from other professional teams around the world and create and operate a youth academy that will help develop future professional players.



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