The 2017 MLS season is up and running and as expected, the two expansion teams are dominating league headlines, yet the two sides are off to vastly different starts. On one hand, Atlanta United FC has opened its inaugural season with tremendous success both on and off the pitch, but on the other hand, Minnesota United FC is experiencing the growing pains of transitioning from the NASL to a major league level.
From the start it looks like Atlanta United has struck gold by acquiring Josef Martinez from Torino, Italy who already has the first hat trick in club history as well as providing exciting celebrations for the fans. The opening loss to the NY Red Bulls drew a sell-out crowd of 55,297 to Bobby Dodd Stadium and the club reportedly sold out tickets for its second straight match against Chicago as well, a 4-0 victory. With two wins in its first three games, and reason to believe more wins are coming, fans of Atlanta United have every reason to be happy.
On the flip side, Minnesota United FC seems to have struck nothing but coal with its current lineup. While a promising start is not expected for any expansion side, starting off the season with 5-1 and 6-1 losses arguably fall below the already low expectations needed to be considered an inaugural season success. The home opener of 35,043 was the largest crowd for a soccer game in Minnesota since May 1984, and the snow in the forecast made for an interesting optic on television. However the result left a lot to be desired from the expansion side that is sadly showing why it finished in 8th place out of 12 teams in the minor league NASL last season.
Intriguingly, Minnesota has acquired a much bigger brand name as a shirt sponsor in Target, and the public opinion of the team’s new logo and kits has been extremely positive overall. While financial details were not disclosed for the deals, Atlanta’s shirt sponsor American Family Insurance is nothing to sneeze at either. In addition, the red and black striped jerseys are a kit combination that has not been used in MLS for years.
As it is only Week 4 of MLS action, it is still early to speculate which team will finish its inaugural season with more success, but for now, give the advantage to Atlanta.