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MLS awards expansion franchise to Atlanta

The league announced a new franchise set to begin play in 2017 as its Southeastern expansion push continues.

Major League Soccer is awarding an expansion team to Atlanta with the team set to begin play in 2017, the league announced Wednesday.

Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons, will bring soccer to the Georgia city with the new club set to play in the Falcons' new 65,000-seat stadium. For MLS games, the stadium will feature seating capacity of 29,322, according to a release.

“We are very excited to bring a Major League Soccer team to Atlanta," Blank said in the release. "We are going to build a first-class organization on and off the field that will be a source of pride for the entire community, and we believe our downtown stadium will become a destination for soccer fans throughout the Southeast for many years to come."

At the official announcement in Atlanta, Blank said the team's colors would be red, black, and gold, and that the name and logo will be chosen once fans are consulted.

Atlanta will help MLS fill a void in the Southeastern United States, which previously had no top-division clubs. Orlando City will join the league in 2015, while a group in Miami led by David Beckham has announced plans to put a franchise in South Florida. New York City FC will also begin play in 2015.

“We are thrilled to welcome Atlanta to Major League Soccer as our 22nd team,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in the release. “Atlanta is one of the largest and most diverse markets in North America and has a rich tradition in sports and culture. And with Arthur Blank joining our ownership group, we are adding one of the most respected owners in professional sports."

Prior to the announcement, Atlanta was the largest market in the country without a MLS team. The league hopes to add one more expansion franchise by 2020, with Minneapolis, Sacramento and San Antonio top contenders for team No. 24.

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