Atlanta United FC sign three Homegrown players for 2018 season

George Bello - Lagos Kunga - Patrick Okonkwo - Atlanta United - promo

Atlanta United FC are in the thick of their first campaign, but they already have their sights set on the future.

The club announced on Saturday the signing of three players, defender George Bello and forwards Lagos Kunga and Patrick Okonkwo. All three players will become MLS Homegrown players on Jan. 1, 2018.

“Since our club’s inception, we have been dedicated to identifying and developing the best local youth talent and today, George, Lagos and Patrick have earned the opportunity to take that next step forward,” Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement. “Each player has been the beneficiary of the continued integration between our first team and academy and they’ve proven they belong at this level.”

Kunga, 18, is the player to have gotten the most national exposure recently, courtesy of his turn with the US national team on their quarterfinal run at the U-20 World Cup. Kunga scored a goal in four appearances at the U-20 World Cup.

Okonkwo, 18, has been one of the most prolific scorers in the development academy, and scored 26 goals in 29 appearances for the Atlanta United U-18 academy team.

Bello, at 15 the youngest of the trio, is a defender who in addition to playing for the Atlanta United U-16 academy team has been a regular member of US youth national teams, including the U-15 squad that won the prestigious Torneo Delle Nazioni.

All three players will be participating on their respective Atlanta United academy teams at the upcoming development academy playoffs later this month.

“It’s a proud day for our program and for each of these three young men,” Atlanta United academy director Tony Annan said in a statement. “George, Lagos and Patrick have shown an unrelenting determination to get to this point and I have the utmost confidence in each of them to realize their maximum potential. At the end of the day, our Academy is dedicated to the development of each of our players, and collectively as a staff, we couldn’t be happier for these three who have made the next step in their progression.”

The signings bring the number of Atlanta United Homegrown players all-time to five, joining current senior-team players Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin.