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New Major League Soccer franchise to be named Atlanta United FC

The Arthur Blank-backed Atlanta United FC will join Major League Soccer in 2017.

Team owner Arthur Blank has confirmed that Atlanta's expansion Major League Soccer franchise, which debuts in March 2017, will be named Atlanta United FC.

Nearly 4000 fans, many of whom cheered "Un-cle Ar-thur" as team owner Blank made the announcement on Tuesday in Atlanta, were equally enthusiastic when MLS commissioner Don Garber, team president Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra took turns speaking.

He first explored bringing an MLS team to Atlanta 10 years ago. With the new stadium, Blank hopes to exceed the average MLS game crowd of 20,000.

"We knew that Atlanta -- given its demographic changes, its growth, its significant Hispanic population and the millennial population downtown -- would support soccer if we had the right facility and brought in the right leadership," Blank told the Associated Press.

"We have a lot we have to do. Now we have to convert these fans into season-ticket holders."

Atlanta United can't begin signing players until next summer and even then he doesn't expect to have more than five before the MLS expansion draft in December 2016.

Bocanegra, with no players to call his own, spends nearly all of his time scouting.

"We're starting with zero players and we have to put together a squad of 28 players," Bocanegra said.

"First time we can train together is mid-January and we have to be playing a game by early March. It's not a long time. We don't have that core group. That's going to be a real challenge."

Blank echoed many of the same themes he's used over the years when addressing Falcons fans. He spoke of having a winning product and a rewarding game-day experience.

"We have a lot of humility," Blank said. "We have our head down, working hard and putting our shoulder to the wheel. With this kind of leadership we have with Darren, Carlos and [vice president of business operations] Ann [Rodriguez], we'll a franchise the MLS can be proud of for years to come."

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