Gerardo "Tata" Martino has rejected a contract extension at Atlanta United and will move on at the end of the Major League Soccer season, the club announced Tuesday.
The former Barcelona manager has been linked to a raft of international roles in recent months, including with Colombia and Argentina. However, sources told ESPN's Eric Gomez late last week that Martino has a verbal agreement to take the reins of Mexico in December.
Atlanta United have reached the postseason in each of their two opening MLS campaigns under the guidance of Martino. Over those two terms, no team in MLS has collected more points (124), scored more goals (139), or posted a superior goal differential (+59) than the Five Stripes.
"This was not an easy decision to make, I have enjoyed my time with Atlanta United very much and am proud of what we have accomplished together in such a short time," Martino said. "The decision was not made for financial reasons, negotiations with the front office were transparent and fair. It was simply the right move for me and my family at this time.
"The opportunity to build a team from the start does not come along often, and I am grateful to the club and to the fans for putting their trust in me to establish a solid foundation here in Atlanta. What is most important now is that the focus remain on our goals for this season."
Hirving Lozano has previously voiced his preference for Martino to take over Mexico, and it's young players like the gifted PSV Eindhoven winger that should expect to thrive under the 55-year-old's tutelage if he assumes the role. Not only has he revived the career of Josef Martinez - the Venezuelan is currently shattering a single-season scoring record that has stood for 22 years in MLS - but he's also significantly boosted the reputations of Miguel Almiron, Hector Villalba, and Ezequiel Barco after scouring Latin America for talent.
"Tata will leave our fans with wonderful memories of our first years, and will always hold a special place in the Atlanta United history books," club president Darren Eales shared. "We look forward to finishing this season strong together, and wish him nothing but the best in the future."
Atlanta rounds off its regular season with a trip to fallen MLS Cup holders Toronto FC on Sunday, where a win ensures that the club clinches the Supporters' Shield regardless of what result the New York Red Bulls glean from Orlando City. If the postseason started today, Atlanta United's opponents in the Eastern Conference semifinals would be either New York City FC or the Columbus Crew.