Atlanta may score pro soccer franchises

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Atlanta’s soccer scene may soon be sporting top-flight professional teams for men and women.

The area, already home to the Atlanta Silverbacks of the United Soccer Leagues – essentially what Major League Baseball would call its minor leagues – is frequently mentioned as the site of expansion efforts for Women’s Professional Soccer and its brothers in Major League Soccer, the premier pro league in the U.S.

A recent report pegged Atlanta as one of four cities under consideration for WPU, a seven-city league that doesn’t start play until 2009. Atlanta’s in the mix for a 2010 expansion team, which costs about $1.5 million. WPS is the successor to the Women’s United Soccer Association that ran from 2001 to 2003 and included the Atlanta Beat.

The price of admission to MLS is about $40 million, a price tag seen affordable by Arthur Blank, the Home Depot co-founder who owns the Atlanta Falcons and the Gwinnett Gladiators. Blank’s made public his desire to own a soccer team and was mentioned in recent reports as one of a handfulof potential new owners. MLS wants to add its 17th and 18th teams by 2011.

The Silverbacks, by the way, have opened their 2008 campaigns. The women’s team leads the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference with a 6-0 record. They play at home on June 7. The men, with a 3-3 record, sit in seventh place in the First Division. They take the field again on Friday.

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