The city’s fan groups have each forged an identity and a following, and they may answer an important question: What does it mean to support a soccer team in the South — and specifically in Atlanta, the so-called capital of the South?
J. R. Francis has been wrestling with the question since 2013. At the time, another prospective fan, Matt Stigall, was helping to lead a petition drive to bring an M.L.S. team to Atlanta. Francis and hundreds of others quickly signed on. The petitioners got the attention of Arthur Blank, the Home Depot co-founder and Atlanta Falcons owner, by sending his staff news of how boxes of papers with signatures were mounting. By the end of 2013, they had gathered about 4,000 names.
One day, Francis said, they got a cryptic email from Blank’s organization. “It’s time to turn your petition drive into a supporters’ group,” the email said. Terminus Legion was born.
The name, Francis noted, has roots in Atlanta’s history. Terminus was the city’s first name, in the early 19th century, when Atlanta was not so much a bustling Southern capital but merely the end of a rail route that started in Chattanooga.
Four years after its founding, Terminus Legion continues to grow. At a midtown bar several weeks ago, an event called Terminalia drew dozens of fans with black, gold and red scarves, buzzing in anticipation of Atlanta United’s debut. Jorge E. Alonso, the group’s director of brand development, set up two laptops on a table to sign up new members amid the clamor.
Michael Page stood…