Atlanta’s newest champions were given the royal treatment befitting a championship campus today.
Fresh off of capturing the Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) in front of a record crowd of 73,019, the Atlanta United FC and thousands of rabid fans, basked in the championship glory of today’s parade and victory celebration despite the frigid and wet weather.
The parade, beginning at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Baker Street and Peachtree Street, wound its way around Centennial Olympic Park before cutting through the heart of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) downtown Atlanta campus, culminating at The Home Depot Backyard, the 11-acre greenspace developed on a portion of the former Georgia Dome footprint, adjacent to MBS.
By 9:30 a.m. a sizeable gathering huddled on the lawn at The Home Depot Backyard as deejays hyped them up in anticipation of the team’s arrival.
At approximately 10:45 a.m. the procession, led by mounted police, arrived on Andrew Young International Blvd. between the Georgia World Congress Center and International Plaza.
Headed up by an oversized replica of the MLS Cup towed by a Mercedes-Benz SUV, and followed by Atlanta United/Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and other executives in convertibles, with the players’ open air bus and throngs of chanting, flag-toting fans bringing up the rear, the lively celebration snaked through the campus toward the ceremony space set up on The Home Depot Backyard lawn.
One by one, the United players were introduced on stage, and cheered, along with coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, and Blank, Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms made remarks commending the team.
“It’s time to let the world know we united and we conquered,” said Deal. “This is a championship we can all be proud of.”
It only took two years for the United to seize the MLS Cup, and it represents the city’s first major professional sports championship since the Atlanta Braves won the 1995 World Series.
The celebration capped off with a pyrotechnics display and confetti blast and a truncated version of Queen’s classic arena anthem “We Are the Champions” blaring via public address system.
Championships, meanwhile, are becoming synonymous with the GWCCA campus, which hosts Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in 2020. And within the span of 11 months, the University of Georgia and University of Alabama hooked up for two down-to-the-wire championships at MBS (the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game in January and the recent SEC Championship), with ancillary events spread out across the campus.
In addition, the GWCCA routinely hosts cheerleading, gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, bodybuilding, marching band competitions and e-sports championships – to name just a few – all part of being the No. 1 convention, sports and entertainment destination in the world.
The title games continue Tuesday and Wednesday with the Georgia High School Association State Football Championships at MBS, which were rescheduled to accommodate the MLS Cup.