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Atlanta United President Darren Eales is more than ready to let the games to begin.

Atlanta is a subpar soccer town—reality or myth? Put Darren Eales resolutely in the myth column. “We laid that ghost to rest,” says the president of the new Atlanta United FC soccer club. “We broke the [Major League Soccer] record for expansion-team season-ticket sales and set the bar really high for future teams.”

Last official count: To date, 22,000 season tickets have been sold.

The club opens its season March 5 against the New York Red Bulls at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium. Later in the season, it will move into its permanent digs—the brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In 2014, Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank, who also owns the Falcons, hired Eales away from his front-office post at Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League. That meant the British-born, U.K. football exec left a franchise founded in 1882 for a U.S. soccer club with two years until its first game would even be played. The culture shock was mitigated, Eales explains, because he played college soccer at Brown University and then in the American pro ranks from 1995 until 1997.

Eales has been starving for Atlanta United matches to begin, and now he can just about taste it. “It’s been an extraordinary amount of work to get the club where it is,” he says, “and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. But at the end of the day, it’s what happens on the pitch. We intend to bring winning soccer to Atlanta from the beginning.”

EALES' HOTS
Octane’s White Lightning coffee, the other football (Falcons and SEC), Station Soccer at Five Points MARTA station, karaoke

EALES' NOTS
Iced tea, four-way stop intersections, Brexit, mint chocolate chip ice cream that isn’t green