Fitz Johnson, the owner and general manager of the Atlanta Beat in Women's Professional Soccer, announced Thursday that KSU Soccer Stadium will play host to the Atlanta MLS Challenge next month.
The New England Revolution, Columbus Crew and Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer will each play a pair of exhibitions during the March 9-13 event.
Columbus and New England, two of the charter franchises in the United States' premier men's soccer league, will play March 9, followed by Columbus-Houston on March 11 and New England-Houston on March 13. The first two games are set for a 7:30 p.m. start, while the time for the final contest is still to be determined.
Columbus and Houston have accounted for three MLS Cup titles between them, while New England is a four-time runner-up.
In addition to the games, Johnson said there will likely be clinics in and around the stadium, and negotiations are ongoing with Comcast to broadcast the games around the Southeast.
"Atlanta has shown strong support for soccer events throughout the (metro area)" Johnson said. "This is a great opportunity to see if an MLS franchise would be a good fit for the market as we host the tournament in our brand-new, soccer-specific facility.
"The league is trying to make it a national league. It's a challenge to the fans to see if they want MLS."
This will also work as a trial run to see if the MLS wants the metro-Atlanta area.
The MLS will expand to 18 teams this season with the addition of the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. An expectant expansion franchise in Montreal is projected for 2012, but the league will still be without a team in the Southeast.
Two Florida-based teams in Tampa and Miami folded in 2001.
Currently, the closest teams to Atlanta are the clubs in Columbus, Dallas, Houston and Washington.
Johnson said the idea of next month's challenge came together quickly and was a direct result of the successful exhibitions between the under-20 men's national teams of United States, Mexico and Colombia held at KSU Soccer Stadium in November.
"Representatives of the New England Revolution came in for the (exhibitions)," Johnson said. "They came in and loved the stadium and said, 'We need to play here,' and I said, 'Let's get it on.'"
Johnson, who is working in tandem with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Atlanta Sports Council, is hoping to draw 6,000-plus fans to each game, which could provide a $600,000 or $700,000 jump in revenue for Kennesaw and the metro area.
"Atlanta has proven that, when given the opportunity, it can host a magnificent soccer event," Atlanta Sports Council executive director Dan Corso said in a statement. "We look forward to hosting these three MLS clubs and know our city will rally in support."
Tickets for the event will go on sale today at 9 a.m. by calling the Atlanta Beat at (678) 298-4780 or by visiting the team's website at www.theatlantabeat.com. Prices begin at $20 for general admission and continue to $100 for on-field seats.