ATLANTA -- Atlanta United FC's first game is officially sold out.
There will be 55,000 crammed into Bobby Dodd Stadium, the temporary home for Atlanta United until Mercedes-Benz Stadium is completed this summer, on Sunday for its inaugural game.
Atlanta United will play the New York Red Bulls, who finished on top of the eastern conference last season and fell in the conference semifinals. The MLS expansion team has sold more than 30,000 season tickets for this year and is on track to stay above MLS attendance averages.
Excitement is rampant.
"The fact that we have so many fans here and so much support, it just makes expectations higher," head coach Tata Martino said through a translator. "We have to respond like that when we play to meet those expectations. But we've formed a great team with very talented players and now we have to do our best to meet those high expectations."
Atlanta United did not disappoint during the preseason, going 3-1 in the Carolina Challenge Cup. But none of that matters now. Less than 40 days after the team first came together, Atlanta United are ready to compete, and they want to be competitive and make a run at the playoffs in their first season.
"I can't tell you in days and months how long it will take for the team to come together, but hopefully soon and you'll see that in our first few matches," Martino said.
"Just to come to a new city, I've just been 11 years out of the country, I'm finally home," defender Greg Garza said. "But to come to a city like Atlanta and to see how many people are actually on board, for this club around the city is a wonderful felling for all of us, especially myself."
Garza isn't overwhelmed by the support, though. He said he played in front of 90,000 at the Alamodome when the U.S. faced Mexico. The players expect the atmosphere Sunday to be just like those loud, wild national team matches.
"It's quite a statement by our fans," defender Michael Parkhurst said. "We're stoked to play in front of an atmosphere like that."
And to find that atmosphere at home is even more gratifying.
"Being out of the country, you learn so many things about so many different cultures. But being home, there's no place like home, right? It does take a bit of adapting," Garza said.
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