In a decision that’s being called landmark, generational, and among the most important developments in American soccer history, the U.S. Soccer Federation has announced plans to uproot its headquarters from Chicago to Atlanta and build its first-ever designated National Training Center somewhere in the metro.
Which begs the questions: What will that facility look like? And where will it go?
What we know at this point is the soccer complex will be built in part with a $50 million contribution from Atlanta’s resident Warbucks, Arthur Blank, The Home Deport cofounder and owner of Atlanta United and the Falcons.
The facility will serve as U.S. Soccer’s new HQ and what’s described as “a central hub for the entire soccer community, including coaches and referees, to access best-in-class training, technology, and infrastructure to promote successful and sustainable playing environments throughout the country,” per the federation. It will be utilized by all 27 of U.S. Soccer’s National Teams and will host youth tournaments and soccer-related conferences. (Part of Blank’s $50 million grant will be specifically used to build facilities for the federation’s nine Extended National Teams, with an emphasis on supporting the Cerebral Palsy, Deaf, and Power Soccer National Teams.)
U.S. Soccer expects to quickly finalize its decision on the National Training Center, picking a site in January next year.
The federation’s CEO and secretary general, JT Batson (a Georgia native), is currently heading the search with help from Deloitte consultants. In terms of what that search entails, U.S. Soccer said this in a Friday announcement:
“[We’ll] be working closely with key partners, stakeholders, and officials across the metro Atlanta community and State of Georgia to gather feedback and earn support from local stakeholders to construct the new center and be a community partner,” reads the statement. “With rising external investment and thriving local economies, all sites currently being evaluated would make excellent locations for the future National Training Center.”
MLSSoccer.com reports the project’s cost hasn’t been finalized, but that the center could be completed enough for the U.S. men’s national team to begin utilizing it before 2026 World Cup matches across North America, during which Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be one of 16 host facilities. MLS Commissioner Don Garber called the National Training Center “one of the most important projects in the history of soccer in America,” during a Saturday announcement ceremony, as the website notes.
“Our national teams at all levels will finally have a world-class facility that will represent the identity of what soccer in America can be, right here in one of the biggest and one of the most important cities in our country,” Garber continued. “This will have an impact on our sport for generations.”
After uprooting from Colorado Springs, U.S. Soccer has called the South Loop area of Chicago home since 1991 in a complex of refurbished mansions widely known as “Soccer House,” according to The Equalizer.
Yahoo Sports notes U.S. Soccer previously built a National Training Center next to the Galaxy club’s stadium in Carson, California with a large footprint—nine training fields across 125 acres, or nearly six times the size of Centennial Olympic Park. But Los Angeles was deemed too far to travel for European players, and U.S. Soccer has wanted to build its own facility where it would have primary ownership, as opposed to the arrangement with the Galaxy.
The AJC reports Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s global connectivity and Atlanta’s mild climate that allows for training all year both worked in the city’s favor. The Atlanta region also “reflects the diversity and evolution of U.S. Soccer, as well as its strong enthusiasm for the sport,” the federation noted.
Following news of U.S. Soccer’s decision, an Urbanize Atlanta reader named Michael chimed in via email with guesses as to where a presumably very large facility might fit.
“My money is somewhere in the south metro because of proximity to the airport, but someplace on the Westside could be in the running, what with [Blank’s] fondness for reinvigorating that area of Atlanta in particular,” he wrote. “This could be interesting!”
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