NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks fold after 15 seasons

The North American Soccer League has suspended the Atlanta Silverbacks for the 2016 season. The league operated the team last season after it took control from its previous owners but could not find new owners for the Silverbacks, originally founded in 1998. It marks the second market the NASL has had to pull out of after Spurs Sports & Entertainment took control of San Antonio's Toyota Field with plans to launch a USL team in 2016 with MLS ambitions.

"The goal all along has been to secure committed local ownership in Atlanta, but despite significant conversations with a number of interested parties, we were unable to identify a group that could lead the Silverbacks in a direction consistent with the rest of our clubs," said NASL commissioner Bill Peterson. "It's unfortunate, and particularly sad for the Silverbacks' passionate fan base, which has supported the club tremendously throughout the years."

After sitting out in 2009 and 2010, the Silverbacks joined the NASL for its inaugural season in 2011, and were operated by the league last season after taking control of the team from Boris Jerkunica and Henry Hardin.

"This is obviously a disappointing day for anyone that has been involved with the club over the years," Silverbacks president and general manager Andy Smith, who had been with the club for four of its five NASL seasons said. "The organization created some great memories for the city of Atlanta and its soccer fans, but as we all know, you need ownership to continue on. We appreciate all of the time and effort the league and its owners have invested in their search for long-term Silverbacks ownership - they truly turned over every rock in the process. On behalf of the organization, I want to thank all of our staff members, players, coaches, partners, and most importantly fans for their loyal support."

Atlanta's demise comes a year before MLS moves in with Atlanta United, backed by the NFL Falcons and with season-ticket deposits of more than 26,000. In their 15 seasons, the Silverbacks' highest average attendance was 4,677 in 2013.

The NASL will kick off its sixth season this April with 11 teams, the same it operated with in 2015. It has added Rayo OKC and Miami FC and lost San Antonio and Atlanta. Puerto Rico FC will join the league for the fall season 2016 season.
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