A group of executives for Atlanta-based companies are embracing soccer to improve Atlanta's image as a global city. A "soccer cabinet," led by Aaron's CEO Robin Loudermilk, is studying ways that soccer can help the city grow economically and socially. Their motto: "Soccer is good for Atlanta, and Atlanta is good for soccer."
Atlanta is hoping to be a host city should FIFA give the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to the United States and land an MLS team. The Georgia State Soccer Association has more than 81,000 players, making it the most populous sport in the state. Atlanta is the largest TV market in the country without a team in MLS.
The Georgia capital ranks 13th among U.S. destinations for international travelers (according to the U.S. Commerce departmen) and 33rd out of 40 U.S. cities in destination appeal (according to a survey of international planners). The soccer cabinet thinks that one of the reasons for those low numbers is that the city doesn't have the global game.
"Look at Atlanta and its diversity," Loudermilk said. "We need soccer for our residents. Not only for entertainment, but for economic impact."