From 2001-2003, Atlanta was home to the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) Atlanta Beat. The Beat had an outstanding three-year tenure leading the league in attendance and becoming the only team in the WUSA to reach the playoffs every season.
In 2001 and 2003, the Atlanta Beat appeared in the league’s championship game before suspending operations on September 13, 2003, when the league collapsed.
Atlanta is a soccer hotbed with its numerous youth leagues and tournaments. In addition, the region has hosted some big-time women’s soccer events, including the Olympics and WUSA championship games.
The Rebirth Of Women’s Soccer In USA
Nearly six years after that devastating collapse, the highest-level women’s game finally returned to an American audience with the 2009 Women’s Professional Soccer launch.
The WPS inaugural season launched in the spring of 2009 with the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Gold Pride (Bay Area), Los Angeles Sol, St. Louis Athletica, Sky Blue FC (NJ), and Washington Freedom. These seven teams fielded rosters with US Women’s National team players, international superstars, and college standouts.
As the inaugural seven prepared for their first WPS season, Atlanta entrepreneur Fitz Johnson had already taken some immediate steps to secure a WPS Atlanta franchise. In Sept. 2008, he signed a letter of intent for the 2010 WPS team and organized an advisory board called the Center Circle.
The Center Circle was a vehicle to guide the development of this franchise through soccer and business leaders from the metropolitan Atlanta area. Many of these individuals had previously worked with the former WUSA franchise and had excellent knowledge of the challenges a new team would face.
“We will learn from experience and make Atlanta WPS a franchise that all soccer fans in our state will be proud to call their own,” said Johnson.
Re-Building Atlanta Beat
He took the next step on December 11, 2008, at the Georgia Aquarium Ballroom when he launched a season ticket pledge drive and a “Name the Team” contest.
On June 18, 2009, the Atlanta Beat became the ninth franchise in WPS, with newly appointed General Manager Shawn McGee presiding over the big announcement.
The Atlanta Beat named Gareth O’Sullivan head coach on August 14, 2009, and began hiring its staff in early September.
The Atlanta Beat had a complete roster after January’s 2010 WPS Draft, and players reported for the Beat’s inaugural season in March 2010. The Beat acquired its first players in the WPS Expansion Draft in September 2009.
Leigh Ann Robinson, a 23-year-old defender from San Diego, will go down in history as the first player ever to have her rights acquired by the expansion Atlanta Beat.
International Soccer Players
Atlanta Beat came out with a strong number two international pick selecting Ramona Bachmann of Switzerland. Bachmann is a world-renowned forward who had previously declined offers from Germany and other WPS clubs to spend another year with Swedish powerhouse Umea IK.
She has two Swedish Premier League titles with Umea, has twice appeared in the UEFA Women’s Cup Final, and was recently voted Player of the Year for Swiss Soccer.
Two fellow Umea players joined Bachmann after the Atlanta Beat picked up Johanna Rasumussen of Denmark and Mami Yamaguchi of Japan. Rasmussen, who went fourth overall, is a forward who appeared in the 2007 Women’s World Cup Finals with the Danish Women’s National Team.
Her clubmate and midfielder, Yamaguchi, came in as the Beat’s third draft pick and a familiar face to US women’s soccer.
Yamaguchi recently recorded an assist against the WPS-All Stars in the final game of the inaugural WPS season. She was the 2007 NCAA MAC Herman Trophy winner at Florida State University.
The Japanese international has won Swedish Championship gold with Umea, has experience playing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, and starred at various levels with the Japanese National Team.
With three players from one of the world’s best clubs, the Atlanta Beat set sights on Brazilian midfielder Maurine Dornelles Goncalves for the eighth overall selection in the draft.
Goncalves received a silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was a gold medalist in the 2007 Pan American Games. She also earned a bronze medal in the U-20 World Cup and played for the Brazilian soccer club Santos FC.
Atlanta Beat Poor Performances
The Beat ended the 2010 season in last place with five wins, 13 losses, and six ties. Their average attendance was 3,690 spectators per game.
In the second season, the Atlanta Beat finished with one victory, four draws, and 13 losses. Again they finished in last place. The positive was that goalkeeper Allison Lipsher won the League Player of the Week in weeks 2 and 3 of the competition.
Unfortunately, the strikers could not score goals and gained a record for the longest goal drought with 757 minutes between goals. Not even pocket rocket Carli Lloyd could achieve for the Beat. Her most significant achievement in 2011 was ending with four yellow cautions.
The league was canceled in 2012 due to a court battle and lack of support. Unfortunately, that was the end of Atlanta Beat for the second time in history.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!