What do you do and where do you go when you’ve won the league championship, set numerous attendance records and changed a sport in your country forever in just five years?

This is the brilliant position Atlanta United of the MLS now find themselves in. Since being founded in 2014 they’ve won the MLS Cup and now hold the top five attendance records in the league. More importantly, they’ve introduced soccer to a sports mad city and have now set the bar for every club in the competition.

From the boardroom to the match day experience, Atlanta have re-energised the MLS by marrying the American match going experience with the traditional soccer-mad European approach. And as opposed to relying on a big money signing from Europe, the club have utilised their biggest weapon with devastating effect – the US$1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The stadium is the most technologically advanced in the world, and will be the centrepiece of the UCFB global summit when students visit Atlanta for the first time in 2020.

Former Premier League defender Carlos Bocanegra is now Vice President and Technical Director at the club. In a city famed for its NFL and MLB franchises, he told UCFB how the club have built such a large and loyal following.

“A lot of it has come naturally,” he says. “As we’re building our club, we’re building our fan base and we’re building the roster. Everything we’re doing we try to do it very organically.”

Bocanegra says it’s about getting out into the community and interacting with supporters’ groups. “We ask questions and we listen and we very much want to be a part of Atlanta, be authentic to Atlanta and the region.”

Of course, having a championship winning side led by Dutch legend and former Ajax manager Frank de Boer does help bring in the punters. But so do small initiatives within the stadium too, such as award-winning food and drink, including free refills for non-alcoholic beverages. Together, these things allow United to have an average attendance of 53,000 and compete with the Falcons and the Braves for the sports mad population of Atlanta.

“If you look on the field we want to be high performance and high-flying, with exciting soccer scoring a lot of goals,” says Bocanegra. “We felt like this is a diverse city; it’s got a very athletic population.”

Off the field too, United are leading the charge to ensure players are able to perform to the best of their ability and that fans can enjoy the best match day possible. Bocanegra commented: “A lot goes into it. We’ve got a great team, a great club and a great organisation and I think it comes down to the people that work here from top to bottom.”

He added: “Just as the players get all the attention on the field, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. We feel that takes us a long way.”

UCFB will be opening global hubs at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, New York’s Red Bull Arena, Toronto FC’s BMO Field and the Melbourne Cricket Ground, giving students and alumni truly unique opportunities within the global sports industry. Find out more.