Atlanta has a shot at the city's first professional sports championship in more than two decades, courtesy of the Five Stripes, aka Atlanta United, the city's Major League Soccer (MLS) team, which has clinched its place in the MLS Cup.
Behind the "A" are five black and red stripes representing the five pillars of the team: unity, determination, community, excellence and innovation, words that also can describe the city of Atlanta.
In addition to the screams of A-T-L heard around town and the noticeable uptick in Atlanta United gear and colors being worn, the city has rallied to support Atlanta United on this, "the world’s game’s” biggest stage. Here are five reasons Atlantans love Atlanta United.
5. The Play (Excellence) – Pretty much from the beginning, “the beautiful game” has been played – well, beautifully – by this team. Atlanta United has been a force to be reckoned with since its inaugural season last year, when it became only the third-ever MLS expansion club to qualify for the playoffs in its inaugural season. This season, the team got even better and easily earned a spot in the MLS Cup, making it known that last year was not a fluke. As the team coined it, “We Gon’ Shine.” Being good at what you do will get anyone talking, and this team is so good it has the entire soccer world talking.
4. The Diversity (Unity) – Twelve separate countries and seven states are represented on Atlanta United’s roster. As retired British player Alan West put it when he experienced it firsthand "Every single shade that exists in this world is in this stadium. There's so much diversity. And I've said 100 times I've never seen anything like this." This is a testament to the global reach of the team. It's a team representing Argentina and Angola and everywhere in between. As goes the team, so goes the city.
From the outset, the Five Stripes set out to unify this very diverse city. No matter where you live in Atlanta the team's goal is to embrace you as a fan. Apparently, it succeeded. Attend a game and you will see nearly every race, color, creed, lifestyle and age screaming and singing their hearts out for 90 minutes – all unified in their love for this team and the city. Atlanta's diversity is reflected on the field and in the seats.
3. The Pride (Determination) – From it’s founding, the team has shown consistent pride in being an extension of the city and has been proud to shine a light on Atlanta. The fans have reciprocated, hoisting team flags and making team symbols a staple at local bars and homes from Little Five Points to Buford Highway.
2. The Symbols (Innovation) – From the Five Stripes to the team colors to traditions such as striking the spike. Atlanta United embodies Atlanta’s innovative spirit. Black is a symbol of strength and power; red represents pride and passion; and gold epitomizes a commitment to excellence. The striking of the spike at games and the train horn blown after every goal at home matches harken back to Atlanta’s past as a terminus and major rail hub for the South. These symbols are a reminder of the innovative spirit in Atlanta and in its soccer club.
1. The Spirit (Community) – We can’t end this list without a recognition of the enthusiasm of this team's fans. Each supporter group blends soccer culture and Southern culture and makes Atlanta United's culture its own. From enjoying tailgates before the matches (typically reserved in the South for that other kind of football) to embracing the larger world soccer culture and making TIFOS (large banners held up by supporters at points during the game), fans are a huge part of the team's success. The rowdy songs and cheers, black and red smoke, hip-hop music all add to a match-day atmosphere that only Atlanta can create.
Atlanta United is not just a soccer team, which probably is why we’ve fallen In love with the team so quickly. It exemplifies much of what is best about Atlanta. So, really, when we root for Atlanta United we are rooting for the best in each of us.
Let me just close by adding, "A---T---L; A-T-L; ATL!"
Courtney Bigum is a marketing professional and Atlanta local always looking for new and exciting ways to explore the city. There is never a weekend an adventure doesn't find her.