Before Atlanta United even opened the playoffs, owner Arthur Blank and the city of Atlanta received the first award for a successful debut season: Major League Soccer will play its 2018 All-Star Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The league and city made the announcement Monday, Oct. 23, the day after United drew 2-2 at home with first-place Toronto FC to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference. United played in front of another record breaking crowd, 71,874.
United will play the Columbus Crew at home to open the playoffs Thursday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m.
The 2018 MLS All-Star Game was on outgoing Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s list of events to be held at the new retractable-roof stadium, which will host the college football championship game in January and Super Bowl LIII in 2019.
Reed said he looks forward to the week of soccer festivities, including concerts, community initiatives, player appearances and exhibition youth matches.
“When I got that call, I smiled in a fashion you rarely see me smile,” Reed said. “When I look back at it now, I realize how lucky we are to have a man like Arthur Blank, who looked around the corner and saw there was a need and, indeed, a passion for a sport that has literally woven our city together in a way that I haven’t seen it done before.”
MLS Commissioner Don Garber said the stadium has “set the bar for stadiums across the globe” and “will be a great gathering place for the North American soccer community.”
Garber thanked Blank, who first presented the idea of a Southern expansion team and spearheaded Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hosting the MLS All-Star Game is part of a long-term vision.
“We look forward to being a host here in 2018 and fulfilling all of the dreams we have for the stadium,” Blank said. “I don’t think we have to worry about selling out the stadium since we sold out again last night. … Our Atlanta United franchise has done a wonderful job at supporting our fan base here.”
The exact date and format of the 2018 All-Star Game will be announced.
In this year’s game, an MLS All-Star team that included Atlanta United forward Miguel Almiron, defender Greg Garza and team captain Michael Parkhurst lost in penalty kicks to Real Madrid at Chicago’s Soldier Field.