Atlanta United is one of two new MLS squads that started play over the weekend. While the team waits on its new digs to open up in downtown Atlanta, it’s the primary offseason tenant at Bobby Dodd Stadium, which typically houses the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (insert your joke here about a team in red and black invading Georgia Tech).
Atlanta fans absolutely packed the place to the gills, so much so that the commissioner of MLS didn’t even believe it.
Blank on the #ATLUTD 55k sellout: MLS commish texted three times to make sure numbers were right, because he couldn't believe it— Devonta would've won (@JasonKirkSBN) March 5, 2017
Soccer’s been welcomed in college football stadiums from time to time.
The 1994 World Cup saw matches played in the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, and Stanford Stadium. Georgia’s Sanford Stadium played host to the 1996 Olympic Final.
Alabama’s former home away from home, Legion Field, has the distinction of somehow being an Olympic venue when it also hosted part of 1996’s tournament as well. Miami’s old home stadium, the Orange Bowl, was also an Olympic soccer stadium.
The Big House at Michigan hosted Real Madrid vs. Manchester United in front of over 100,000 folks a few years ago. Also, before moving to its new home, Orlando City SC played in the Citrus Bowl (site of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and former home to UCF, now known as Camping World Stadium).
And that got me thinking, what other college venues would I love to watch the beautiful game in and why?
There are a few easy answers here: The Swamp (where Florida plays) and both Death Valleys, which house LSU and Clemson.
It’s about the architecture and the way they’re built. If you’ve ever been to any of these venues, you know that they are all incredibly steep, especially in the upper deck. That traps sound, and with soccer atmospheres, the more sound you can trap in, the better, because of chants and songs that reverberate throughout the venue the entire match.
For relative intimacy with maximum noise.
You don’t have to have a massive stadium to have an awesome atmosphere. A place like Oregon’s Autzen Stadium proves that. With a capacity at 54,000, it’s actually well-equipped to handle a soccer crowd. England’s Premier League has only five stadiums that hold more people that that. Autzen is still able to create a din, making it tough to hear yourself think. Oklahoma once simulated the noise effect by making its players practice with ear plugs.
For actual intimacy.
This one has nothing to do with noise, but damnit, I want to watch a soccer game in the Kibbie Dome, Idaho’s 16,000-seat stadium with half a barrel dome on top. Sometimes in international soccer competitions, you’ll see a massive club have to travel to a faraway place to play in a tiny venue. Lionel Messi’s FC Barcelona (which typically plays in the 99,000-seat Camp Nou) would be fun to watch in Moscow, Idaho.
For the Borussia Dortmund wall effect.
The German team has a famous behind-the-goal atmosphere in which a giant stand sits menacingly behind one of the stadium’s end lines. With just uninterrupted seats, it’s a cool look.
It’s so cool that Orlando City SC tried to replicate the effect with its much smaller venue that also opened during MLS’ opening weekend.
In today’s era of ribbon-board advertisements and luxury boxes in the end zone, it’s tough to replicate that type of look in an American stadium. I’d argue at least Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium and the Ohio State Horseshoe come close. I wouldn’t want to shoot a penalty into either one.
Sheer amount of people.
The finals of the most recent World Cup were played in Brazil’s Maracanã, an already-large stadium that used to be stunningly big. The 1950 World Cup final was also there, with somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 people (depending on who you ask).
College football came close to that attendance number last year when we slapped a football field in a NASCAR track and Tennessee beat Virginia Tech in front of 156,990 fans. At least we don’t have to anecdotalize the number in the U.S.