This article is written by Riley Maleitzke of Soccer Round Table (@SoccRoundTable on twitter).
The hardcore Silverbacks fans are asking for an ownership group to “Buy the Backs”. They also want them to move the team to the new state-of-the-art Sports City in Stonecrest.
The Complicated History Of Soccer In Atlanta
The first soccer team in Atlanta was the Atlanta Chiefs. The Chiefs started in 1966 and played in the the NPSL, and then later joined the NASL. The team was bought by the owners of the Hawks (mainly Ted Turner) in 1973. The team later folded in 1981. In 1994, the Atlanta Rukas was created. They played in the APSL, before moving to the USISL in 1998. Though, six weeks before even playing a match, they couldn’t pay the $100,000 needed to join the league. The team would bounce around different owners from there and overall they had some really bad years on the pitch. They did have a few memorable runs to the playoff before 1998, when new owners changed the team name to the Atlanta Silverbacks.
The Backs still struggled on the pitch. Atlanta had seven coaches and missed the playoffs from 1996-2001. A U.S. Open Cup run in 2002 that ended in the third-round broke up another string of bad years that resulted in missing the playoffs.
In 2007, Atlanta had a breakout season and made it to the A-League final but their hopes were crushed by the Seattle Sounders. In 2009, the Backs moved to the brand new NASL. Though, due to the league not being sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation at the time, they did not play until 2011. In 2013, Atlanta won the spring title, before losing to the New York Cosmos 1-0 in the Soccer Bowl. The Backs beat two MLS teams to advance to the quarterfinals (Real Salt Lake and The Colorado Rapids) in the Open Cup, before being knocked out by Chicago.
In 2014, the NASL leased the naming rights of The Atlanta Silverbacks from Boris Jerkunica. They could not find a owner and ran the team until the end of 2015, before ultimately disbanding the team.
The reserve team that played in the NPSL found ownership and is still renting the rights and stadium from the former owner.
The Case For The Silverbacks
The thing the Silverbacks have going for them is a name that is recognized by the soccer community, as well as, a small group of hardcore fans who will support their team through the good times and the – many – bad times.
The only way to really benefit from the name without it being a financial burden would be to buy the naming rights. This could open up a door for a women’s team to join the Backs with the same name. Also, they have a well established scouting pool.
A historic name like the Silverbacks helps with recruiting.
The Strong Case Against
Stonecrest is 45 minutes away from Silverbacks Park and would limit the support from the hardcore Backs fans. The brand itself has reached a place where it cannot grow anymore.
A new brand with new hype around it could feed off the Atlanta United hype-train and would have a greater potential. Buying the Backs franchise has no value since the team doesn’t own a stadium or their own name, and theirs players are amateurs for now.
All in all, it’s a tough decision that the fans have an important job in deciding by voicing their opinions in outlets, such as social media, to effectively Buy the Backs.