MLS Expanding to Atlanta in 2017

George Frey/Getty Images(ATLANTA, Ga.) -- In early February, Major League Soccer will send a provisional team to Miami for play in either 2016 or 2017. On Wednesday, MLS Commission Don Garber made the announcement that Atlanta would also receive a team that will open play in the 2017 season.

The Atlanta-based franchise will be owned by Arthur Blank, the current owner of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. Blank had been lobbying for a soccer team for more than a full decade and was able to make the idea a reality on Wednesday.

What helped finalize the deal was the decision to build a new $1 billion facility in downtown Atlanta that will go next to the soon-to-be demolished Georgia Dome. The venue will primarily be home to the Falcons, seating approximately 71,000 fans, but will also accommodate the new MLS franchise. The retractable roof stadium will be adjusted to a near 29,000 capacity for soccer games using just the lower bowl.

"There will never be an MLS game in Atlanta where NFL lines are shown on the field," Blank said to a cheering crowd.

The MLS has been expanding rapidly, adding five teams in the last five years. Both Orlando and New York franchises are set to begin play next season while the team in Miami is contingent on a soccer-specific stadium being built. Nineteen teams were in the league at the start of the 2014 season and the league is hoping to reach 24 by the end of the decade.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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