Last year, all eyes were on the Atlanta United FC: Could the club win in its inaugural season? And if it did, were there enough soccer fans in Atlanta to care?
Both questions were answered with a resounding "Yes!" The club posted a record of 15-9-10 (15 wins, nine losses and 10 draws) in its first season and became the first expansion team since 2009 to earn an MLS Cup Playoff bid. And the fans came out in droves to support Atlanta United, getting hyped for matches, forming several passionate supporter groups to chant and cheer and setting several MLS attendance records in the process.
The club's 2018 season began in early March, and it’s clear the excitement that began in the first season is continuing and even growing with the addition of Ezequiel Barco, an 18-year-old midfield phenom. He left Independiente in Argentina and joined the Five Stripes (as the club has become known because of its jerseys) for a reported $15 million transfer fee.
To watch this soccer phenom in his prime, it’s best to set yourself up in the stands at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, of course. But when you're not able to be in the stands, you can bond with other fans and catch the match at many locations throughout metro Atlanta.
Whether you've been following Atlanta United since its first match or you're a new fan wondering what all the hype is about, check out some of the best spots to root for Atlanta United:
Rí Rá, 1080 Peachtree St. NE, Suite 1, Atlanta. 404-477-1700. https://rira.com/atlanta/
Rí Rá has taken the idea of a traditional Irish pub and brought it to Midtown Atlanta. The pub took over two years of work from Irish craftsmen to complete, using restored and salvaged artifacts. After being restored in Ireland, pieces were shipped to Atlanta and reconstructed.
You can watch all of Atlanta United's matches on the big screen at this traditional Irish pub, which also televises many other matches, including those from the English Premier League.
Hoyle's Kitchen + Bar, 1440 Roswell Road, Marietta. 770-509-3320.
Hoyle's promises plenty of games, good food and good times and televises all Atlanta United matches. Their game room has a 12-foot screen in addition to other TVs, and you can also play shuffleboard and pool and enjoy the fully-stocked bar.
You might want to schedule your viewing to include Happy Hour on Thursdays and Fridays from 5-7 p.m. You'll be able to score some free goodies like pork belly sliders as you enjoy the match.
Brewhouse Café, 401 Moreland Ave., Atlanta. 404-525-7799.
Brewhouse Café has supported soccer long before Atlanta United's inaugural season, and you can watch a variety of matches – including all of Atlanta United's – at the bar. It's located in Little Five Points and has a popular patio.
And no matter what time of day you'd like to watch a match, the Brewhouse Café is ready. Traditional breakfast is served for early morning matches, and the establishment stays open until 2 a.m.
The Midway Pub, 552 Flat Shoals Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-584-0335.
The Midway Pub hosts watch parties for Footie Mob, an Atlanta United supporters club, for every away match. So in addition to being able to watch matches, you'll get to share in the excitement and see up-close how these boosters support the club.
Try one of The Midway Pub's many beer offerings, order pub fare like a burger or pimiento cheese fritters, and check out the large patio while you're there.
Pizzeria Azzurri, 3560 Browns Bridge Road, Cumming. 770-887-8833.
Pizzeria Azzurri is an official pub partner of Atlanta United, so you can catch all of the club's matches there.
It's a great place to take the entire family to enjoy hand-tossed brick oven pizza, deep-fried wings and homemade desserts. For adults, homemade sangria and a good selection of beers are also offered.
Fadó Irish Pub, 273 Buckhead Ave., Atlanta. 404-841-0066; and 933 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-260-7910.
Fadó has two locations – Buckhead and Midtown – that show plenty of sports, including Atlanta United as well as international soccer matches, rugby and more.
The food is a step above traditional pub grub and includes wild-caught cod as well as meats, such as corned beef and sausages, that are produced by third-generation Vermont butchers. You can also celebrate Atlanta United's victories (or mourn their losses) with a pint of Guinness or another beverage.