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Atlanta Silverbacks to shut down in 2009


The country’s economic crisis has claimed a victim in the American soccer scene. The USL-1 Atlanta Silverbacks will not field a team in 2009, citing the economy as well as the potential arrival of an MLS expansion team in Atlanta in the coming years.

"This was an extremely difficult decision that was prompted by the dynamic events in our economy and the soccer community," Silverbacks general manager Michael Oki said. "We would like to thank all of our fans and partners who have supported the team over the years and hope they continue to come out to the women’s games."

There is no word yet on what this means for the contracts of the team’s current players, including forward Mac Kandji, who is currently on loan to the New York Red Bulls, who will play in the MLS Cup Final on Sunday. The Red Bulls acquired Kandji on a loan deal that included an option to buy Kandji’s contract outright.

What do you think of this development? Share your thoughts below.


  1. As a person from Atlanta I will give you this insight. The Silverbacks had recently built a new stadium (they were playing out of a junior college for years and the games were horrible to go to) and around it they built up a soccer complex for 7 v 7 and some 11 v 11.

    I had played out of this park for a couple of years and it was/is booming. There were hundreds of people out there playing day after day but this didn’t seem to translate into ticket sales for the team.

    The location isn’t ideal for the park, but it’s not horrible either. Right at a major intersection of two highways. What I seeem to sense which I see with MLS as well, is that the Latin American community does NOT come out and support teams. The park was filled with all Latin only teams but I can bet they weren’t at any of the games.

    It’s a sad day for Atlanta soccer fans. The Silverbacks were a class organization and hopefully we will get an MLS team at some point. There is NO reason for ANYONE in the south to support MLS.

    On a side note, Atlanta fans only support a winning team. Look at the Hawks, Thrashers, Falcons… The Braves, up until recently always had solid support after 14 years of championships.

  2. Atlanta is a crap city? really? Thats funny! The silverbacks are a horribly run franchise theres no marketing for them and the stadium they built is crap. They don’t even cater to the HUGE youth followng here in atlanta. If you don’t think soccer would work here your an idiot. or you’ve never been to george pierce park on the weekend when the soccer fields are full and the baseball fields are mediocre. Even the highschool soccer playoffs in the state get noticed. To compare the silverbacks to what MLS would be is just wrong, because Mls brings in names that USL doesn’t imagine Blanco in atlanta? Plus all Atlanta sports hate New York teams, instand rivalry plus coke is here imagine the team having a shirt sponser with Monster energy drinks. The potential is great becuase this will be the first time a major soccer organization will be here and that will attract fans from alabama, south carolina and tennessee so this idea that it wouldn’t work is ridiculous.

  3. Sorry $600 per team (7 game schedule)

    3 fields and 4 games on each field per night. Averages out to be about $150 per game after you pay the ref. Works out to be about $2000 a night then you have to pay the lights bill and the few “stadium officials”….that is were i got my figure.

  4. Some of my thoughts may have been already posted but here goes…

    I live in Atlanta and I play in the over 30 premier league in Remax stadium… honestly, I have never been to a ‘Backs game despite living 4 miles from the venue…Why? Because there is no publicity at all. The stadium is actually quite nice and frankly the fact that they have 3 fields at the facility is great but as others have said… unless they buy out the driving range across the street there is no way to accomodate a 15k all seater stadium. The area however is exactly where it needs to be. It is right in the heart of the Buford Hwy area which is not just Latino but also Asian. Cobb county would not work and you still get a nice influx of Gwinnett county attendees (if marketed right). If Blank does back the team and markets it the way he has marketed the Falcons in the past then it can succeed. There are a ton of “soccer” people in Atlanta who would come if the team was presented in the right way.

    Another point… I am shocked that they have gone under considering the stadium runs leagues every single night and the 3 fields are never empty from 7-11pm every night @ $6000 per team… that is well over $1500 of revenue each night after paying refs and operating costs… I know it costs a lot to run a fanchise but it is not like these players are being paid a lot… just confusing that this came out of nowhere.

  5. A couple of points:

    As an Atlanta soccer fan for years, I am not going to say that this is an indicator that Atlanta is set for an MLS team but I do think that the Silverbacks owners are looking at Blank’s bud as writing on the wall. THe Atlanta Knights owners did the same think once Turner started bidding for an NHL team. You see, they know Atlanta will likely eventually get a team and if they do, it will go to Blank and his company, not to them. Why invest further if you know you are going to be put out of business eventually? Sell the players and put the money into your amatuer and women’s facilities (which are quite nice). I suspect that this will ultimately be their course of action.

    On a side note, as a GT alum, difficult to compare GT with the rest of Atlanta. I must point out not only is GT a smaller school than most major football schools in the region, a large percentage of the alumni actually live California, NY, Seattle, Washington DC. These, combined with an ill-concieved stadium expansion idea, are the major reasons why they hardly sell out their home football games. UGA on the other hand, has most of the non-matriculation fans (i.e. rednecks), as well as a larger alumni base. As a result, they sell out most of their games. GT sold out most of their games the last few years of the pre-expanded stadium. Unfortunately, the fan base hasn’t grown with the stadium. Hopefully it will as Coach Johnson suceeds.

    Atlanta fans got bored with the Braves. They will be out in droves once they start winning again…just like they are with the Falcons right now.

  6. The Gentleman Masher – ironic that you mention the youth does not equal sales, as many of the pro-atl posters are using the large latino population as one of their arguements….

    a large latino population means crap… otherwise places like Chicago, LA and even houston and FCD should have NO PROBLEM selling out each game…. majority of that latino population that expansion teams boast about follow other leagues, whether it be S.american or mexican… and unless you pull a fire (bringing over a big latino name) you most likely wont attract them to the games….

    STL is enriched with soccer, from young to old.. there is no denying that…

    can a team in ATL succeed?? sure, i dont see why not… and if what you say is true it could very well succeed….

    but you are quick to point out what doesnt equal ticket sales, but nothing you can say will definately equate into ticket sales… you make points, but you have absolutely no idea if it will succeed or not…. you claim reason why it could, but that doesnt equal ticket sales…

    also a serious question… how long will people remain season ticket holders if ATL’s team continues to fail once they get a MLS side?? i mean TFC has hit rock bottom 2 yrs running…. SJ didnt make the playoffs this season, altho they stood a chance… RSL entered their first playoffs this season after not being in it for 2 straight….If ATL is picked, they will join after Seattle and Philly…. so How long will ATL fans remain season ticket holders if their team fails to get to the playoffs year after year???

  7. Atlanta is approaching 6 million inhabitants. There is not any other market, save for Montreal, and another team in NYC that offers that large of a market.

    And the youth soccer argument might be the dumbest one I’ve heard. Strong youth soccer programs do not = conistent ticket sales or season ticket holders. Adults buy those tickets. You need a large number of ADULTS to be able to fill a stadium. You don’t need soccer moms reluctantly dragging their kids to one or two MLS matches a year to sustain a franchise.

    St. Louis is a withering city that only cares about its baseball team…just because Brian McBride played college soccer there, and alot of the guys from the 1950 World Cup team lived in St. Louis, doesn’t mean it will support a team. It has little corporate heft, and has lost half its population in the last 50 years. You might as well put a team in Trenton.

    To add to that point – Atlanta NEVER let a team from the most successful sports league in this country, the NFL, walk away like St. Louis did with the football Cardinals.

    Atlanta offers vastly more of those than does Ottawa, St. Louis, Portland, Rochester, etc., etc.

  8. Regardless of the economic environment, the USL has always been a revolving door.

    Since 1997, 35 USL-1 clubs have folded or self relegated due to finance.

  9. as a genera;l rule, minor league teams (and sorry, USL, but that’s minor league) operate on razor thin margins under the best of circumstances.

  10. The Gentleman Masher – alot of markets dont have USL teams… and alot of the current teams didnt have USL teams…. whats your point??? simply b/c you have a USL team does not mean that a MLS team would survive… i am NOT arguing one way or the other, i am simply saying that thought process is ridiculous…

    STL is the home of youth soccer…. they produce some of the best overall talent… they have one of the top youth programs in my opinion, having played against teams from STL throughout my youth… if any market DESERVES a team it would be STL… you can make your arguements about any other team, but quite frankly there are few you can make against STL that would hold water…

  11. John,

    I actually like your arguements for an MLS team. I used to live in NY and now live in Seattle. The problem with all the RBNY fans is that they think NY and the Tri-State area are the center of the world. You will never get it past them unless they’ve lived outside of that bubble. I’ve seen people post that Portland shouldn’t get a team because they’re too close to Seattle and San Jose. Yeah, like Boston, NY, Philly and DC aren’t within a day’s drive of one another.

    I’m sad to see a USL team go away. I believe that MLS needs the USL to survive and grow the sport in alternate markets. I just wish that MLS and USL could get together to make it one cohesive entity to better organize the markets and different leagues. Who knows, maybe this is a sign that ATL won a bid? ATL and Miami could start a new Derby. How’s that for all the haters of the Southeast?

  12. It’s sad to see any soccer franchise go thru this, especially a local one. John hits on a point with the Silverbacks…I use to take my son to a game or two before the new stadium, but for whatever reason, whether it was marketing or just that it was minor league, it just never took with us. I do remember wondering why they had hottubs full of drunks behind one of the goals and thinking that was kinda odd. I still feel that if Blank can get a stadium deal in place by spring, Atlanta will be in the conversation.

  13. Atlanta suffers from what teams in Florida always have. Many of the people who move there still support the teams from where they came from and college sports are more popular then pro sports. That said, its also a major league sports town so I don’t know if a USL team not drawing well would really have an impact on how an MLS team would draw. I think if Blank got behind it people would view it as major league and it may have a chance to do well.

  14. With regards to Atlanta there are several factors to keep in mind:

    Weekday games are pretty much dead in any sport in Atlanta because how the city is set up, traffic is poor for hours and most people live 20+ miles out of the city. That cuts a chunk of people that might ordinarily travel to games on the weekend that don’t because they don’t want to be bothered due to work the next day.

    The Braves average 30k which isn’t great for a MLB team but does not prove a low ceiling of support for a MLS club.

    The Hawks have been poorly managed since before I was born so it’s impressive that they averaged less than 12k only one year since 86-87.

    The maligned Falcons draw 80-90% of capacity, so their attendance isn’t too terrible.

    The Thrashers average have averaged between 13 and 15k since coming into the league, which is impressive for an area that plays almost no hockey. That range of averages compares favorably against most other non-natural hockey cities.

    I think the Dream are drawing decently for a WNBA team though this is their first season.

    As for GT, a variety of factors go against them (small school, many out-of-state/country students, many Atlanta-area people are fans/alum of other schools) yet up until this year they managed to fill up over 90% for most of the Chan Gailey years. This year they are going to be way down because plenty of GT fans didn’t like the crap scheduling and weren’t going to waste their time (2 FCS teams, Duke, MSU, UVA, FSU, and Miami at home – only three decent games)

    If anything showed the potential for an Atlanta MLS team, it was a friendly between the Silverbacks U-23 and a Liverpool academy team this year (U-17s I think). On short notice, limited marketing, and a weekday, Remax was filled to capacity.

    College football is the heart and soul of the south, but there are enough immigrants/youth soccer groups in the area to support a MLS team if it’s sold correctly and placed correctly. A MLS team outside of 285 is doomed to fail and even one inside 285 will have difficulty without being within walking distance of a MARTA station. Ideally I see an average of 12-13k consistently going to matches during the summer with some fall off when college football season starts.

  15. Some of these comments are just jealous and bitter at the fear their city isn’t going to get an MLS team.

    Atlanta would support an MLS team and only a person outside of this area would argue otherwise. As I’ve said in a previous post, if the Thrashers can get 6-8k fans to attend a midweek game even when they suck (watching a sport very few of them played themselves), I guarentee you that an Atlanta MLS team would consistently get 10k+ to weekend games.


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