In November 2016, soccer fans packed the Tabernacle to see the newly formed Atlanta United show off their very first home kit. Under a shower of confetti and stage fog, three players stood proudly bearing the Five Stripes, and by the end of the night, fans had broken the kit sales record for an MLS expansion team.
Fast forward two years and several more broken records later to Friday night, when hundreds of fans walked through an inflatable red and black tunnel from Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s Delta Club onto the pitch. The stadium’s closed roof sparkled with red and gold lights while the halo board boasted “chapter three starts now.” Open only to season ticket holders, the event featured plenty of photo ops for fans—they could pose in one of the convertibles used in the December MLS Cup victory parade, do their best Brad Guzan imitation in front of a goal, or have their photo taken with the MLS Cup (the line for the latter was as enormous as could be expected).
But the main event was a live taping of the Men in Blazers soccer podcast, with cohost Roger Bennett hosting conversations on stage with several players, new head coach Frank de Boer, team president Darren Eales, owner Arthur Blank, and DFL rapper Fabo.
“This city [and] it’s emotional connection to the team and the players is the single greatest feel-good story in American soccer when we really need one,” Bennett said before toasting to the crowd with a bottle of Budweiser. “When you watch at home and you see this stadium, you want to jump right through the television screen and be here in person.”
His first guests, goalkeeper Brad Guzan and defender Michael Parkhurst, talked about what life had been like since winning the MLS Cup in December. Bennett asked Parkhurst in particular about what it was like to win after three previous MLS Cup losses (Parkhurst played with the New England Revolution from 2005-2008). “It was amazing. The champagne tasted so sweet in the locker room,” Parkhurst said. “It was a fun few days celebrating afterwards, we enjoyed ourselves, as most of you know . . . ” Parkhurst trailed off as the crowd began to shout “Magic City! Magic City!,” the strip club that the MLS Cup famously found its way into post-championship. “I don’t know what they’re referring to,” he chuckled.
“By the way, that’s why you always have to wear gloves when you touch that Cup,” Bennett joked.
In his interview, De Boer said that with his coaching style, he just wanted to “update” the solid championship groundwork that his predecessor Gerardo “Tata” Martino had laid, particularly in improving the team’s defense. Then, when Bennett playfully asked which ATL fast food he preferred—Chick-fil-A or Waffle House—he admitted he hadn’t actually tried either since arriving in the U.S. “One of you needs to introduce Frank to waffle fries and Polynesian sauce,” Bennett told the crowd. “They can change even the most deeply-held of football philosophies.”
When Bennett asked forward and league MVP Josef Martínez if he ever thought about breaking records as part of his motivation going into a match, Martínez replied simply, “My first thing is to win.”
And just as Guzan and Martínez had been welcomed with their own chants, so was owner Arthur Blank, whom fans have nicknamed “Uncle Arthur.” He threw the love right back at the crowd. “Roger did a great job during the introduction and I appreciate all the kind words, but they weren’t completely accurate,” Blank said. “The part that’s not accurate is that you,” he nodded toward the crowd, “are the owner of Atlanta United. My job is to represent you. You really are the owners of this soccer team, and God bless you.”
Once all of the interviews were complete, the new kits were officially unveiled with a blast of glittering red fireworks and flames. They feature nine stripes on the front rather than the previous five, as well as stripes on the sleeves and across the bottom of the back. The backs are otherwise black and have a gold “United” emblem where the previous “inaugural season” text had been. They also, of course, feature a gold star signifying the MLS Cup victory over the Atlanta United logo and one other unique gold detail—a silhouette of Georgia with the number 17 that when scanned with the official team app will display special video messages from the players to the fans. After the unveiling, the kits immediately went on sale both at the shop set up on the field, at the team store at Atlantic Station, and online.
While the new “Star and Stripes” jersey will be worn at home, the team will still don the white King Peach kit for away games, which will also boast the gold star. (And if you want a gold star added to your King Peach, you can take it to the Mercedes-Benz or Atlantic Station team store and have it added for $5.)