How Supporter Politics Will Help Atlanta

Terminus Legion, the first MLS Atlanta supporters' group, is attending NASL Atlanta Silverbacks’ games. This has caused a difference in opinion over how to support Atlanta soccer
by Corey Langley   |   Friday, September 05, 2014

Atlanta Rising – column on MLS Atlanta & the Georgia area soccer scene.

In order to discuss the different ideas of soccer support, it is important to look at two important leagues in America.

The current second level of the American soccer pyramid (according to US Soccer) existed close to 30 years prior to Major League Soccer. This league offered their fans some of the best players to ever touch the pitch. Pele, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, and Euseibo all graced American soil at one point in time. Overspending on such fantastic talent eventually led to the demise of the NASL, though. The league was revived in 2011 and has grown in the years since. The league still allows its clubs to oversee themselves. There is no salary cap, no allocation order, and no confusing policies to wade through when bringing in new talent. This is drastically different to the current top flight of American soccer.

Major League Soccer understood the demise of the NASL and saw an opportunity to correct certain problems. Instead of allowing clubs to do what they please, MLS has taken more of a parental approach. The league instituted a salary cap (with a Designated Player exception for ‘worthy’ players), in order for returning Americans, and a draft. They have also nixed the idea of promotion and relegation (a system used almost world-wide) several times.

While the North American Soccer League believes in a club’s ability to control itself, Major League Soccer has made sure of it. This isn’t to say that one is better than the other. In all honesty, it provides two very different and exciting leagues for American fans. However, these drastically different approaches to the world’s game cause disagreements between American supporters daily.

Major League Soccer has made it a point to give their attendants a family-friendly environment that everyone can enjoy. This has trickled down to their supporters' groups as well. Sure, there are exceptions, but the supporters' groups are generally accepting of opposing fans into their stadiums. This comes from a general support of the league. While clubs generally don’t like each other, they know the structure of the league means that they are all working together. Club Owners create the rules and all the clubs abide by them.

The North American Soccer League has created a different type of support, though. Due to the club centric approach taken by the league and the US Soccer recognized division two status, supporters' groups have been more protective of their respective clubs. Not only that, but Major League Soccer’s complete lack of recognition for the rules of the game throughout the rest of the world has caused some soccer die-hards to flock to the North American Soccer League (NASL).

Atlanta will have two professional soccer teams by 2017. The Atlanta Silverbacks, who currently play in the NASL, and the new MLS franchise awarded to Atlanta earlier this year.

Both of these teams already have their own supporters' groups. Terminus Legion (MLS Atlanta) was formed from a movement to bring a MLS club to Atlanta. It has since turned itself into a group for Atlanta soccer support as a whole. The Atlanta Ultras formed to support the Silverbacks during the 2011 NASL season. They have strictly remained a Silverbacks’ support group even after MLS Atlanta was announced.

Terminus Legion’s conversion to all-Atlanta soccer acceptance has created its own issues, though. They have begun to come out in droves for Atlanta Silverbacks games, which has caused frustration to some. The Ultra’s, who tend to see the Legion using Silverbacks’ games as practice, have not looked too kindly on the situation. They believe the Legion to be squatters on their sacred ground. On the other hand, the Legion simply wants to support Atlanta teams with two extremely different structures.

2017 will be an important year for more than one reason. Not only does MLS Atlanta desperately want to prove that we belong in the Soccer City, USA conversation, fans have to decide which side of the supporting line they fall on. Terminus Legion, fairly or unfairly, will be judged by Silverbacks’ supporters on how they decide to support two different clubs at the same time. Certainly, it will be an interesting time. 

Corey LANGLEY

Nationality:
USA
College:
U. of West Georgia
Club Domestic:
LA Galaxy, MLS Atlanta
Club Foreign:
MUFC
Corey fell in love with soccer too late, so he tries to soak up all he can now that he watches. He will cover soccer in Georgia and specifically Atlanta, which will be adding an MLS team in 2017.
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