Head out to the local park on a Saturday morning, and you’ll find hordes of kids playing “the Beautiful Game.” Ask them what they want to be when they grow up, and many reply, “A soccer player.” This is especially true now that “Uncle” Arthur Blank has brought MLS soccer to Atlanta. It was a long wait (often filled with heartbreak for Atlanta sports fans at large), but Blank never lost sight of his near decade-long goal to bring big league soccer to town.
For one Marietta native, who moved up the ranks from minor league teams to the MLS in Toronto, the dream of playing professional soccer not only was realized but Blank’s Atlanta United expansion team meant coming full circle.
Lassiter High School grad and Atlanta United defender Mark Bloom will tell you he wasn’t the biggest, fastest or even the best player growing up, but he had a dream and a solid work ethic.
“My story resonates with young soccer players,” Bloom said. “I had this dream and kept putting in the hard work. I didn’t go to the biggest college. I wasn’t drafted to the MLS. I had to play in the lower leagues before I got my chance. Never give up on your dream because you can make it a reality with enough hard work.”
Bloom said he loves playing MLS ball for his hometown but didn’t think he’d get a chance to play here since athletes don’t necessarily get to choose where they land. Unlike a handful of other homegrown players who are seeing the MLS pitch for the first time with Atlanta United, Bloom signed his first professional contract for a now defunct NESL team in St. Louis (after graduating from Berry College) before going on to play for the Charlotte Eagles in the USL. He even came home once before to play for the Silverbacks before going on loan to Toronto FC during the 2013 season, where he was bought and, ultimately, played for four years.
“I never expected to be here and didn’t know the fan base was going to be this extensive and embrace this team as they have,” Bloom said. “It’s been really fun to reconnect with friends and teammates I haven’t seen in a while and play for a team where every single fan is involved.”
Like Blank (and droves of fans in the city), Bloom sees big things for Atlanta United.
“We’re an expansion team, but the guys got along right away,” he said. “This is a new home for everybody, but we’ve bonded. To see that culminate in our first win was pretty special.”
Bloom lives in Collier Hills with his wife, Emma, and their two daughters, Dagny (2) and Pippa (7 months).