After years of hype from his stellar US youth national team performances as well as the burden that came with becoming Atlanta United's first-ever homegrown signing, Andrew Carleton's career with his local MLS club never came near the heights imagined. On Tuesday, Atlanta ended that brief career by declining his 2021 contract option.
Carleton's time with Atlanta after signing his first pro contract ahead of the club's expansion season in 2017 was marred with off-the-field headaches and few chances on the field.
The talented attacker made only two starts over a total of 11 appearances, the final of which coming in March 2019.
“You have to make tough decisions, we have discussions," Atlanta technical director & VP Carlos Bocanegra told media on Tuesday. "With Andrew, we had him here and we had him on loan with Indy, where he did a good job. But we didn’t see a future here for him breaking in and playing a big role."
Breaking in as a young attacker for Atlanta wasn't easy during his time at the club, with expensive signings like Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron, Tito Villalba, Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martinez ahead of him before he was loaned out to Indy Eleven of the USL Championship for the 2020 season.
Carleton didn't do himself any favors, of course.
The youngster was suspended from the matchday squad at MLS Cup 2018 for "disciplinary reasons." The next year, then-manager Frank de Boer publicly noted that the youngster needs “to grow up” off the field. Then in June of 2019, he missed an Atlanta match in Toronto after forgetting his passport.
Carleton is still just 20 years old and had a strong bounceback year in 2020. He drew rave reviews for some performances with Indy and flashed the potential that was so evident at the 2017 U-17 World Cup.
If he's to reach his potential in MLS, it won't be with Atlanta.
"That doesn't mean he won’t go somewhere else and do very well, he’s a talented young player," Bocanegra said. "He still has a lot of football ahead of him, he just needs to get in the right situation and style to suit him. He’ll have plenty of people intrigued."
How can another MLS team acquire Carleton?
Carleton will now be available in the 2020 End-of-Year-Waivers draft. He doesn't meet the minimum age and years of service requirement for the Re-Entry Draft or Free Agency.
The waivers draft selection process is determined by the reverse order of the final standings in the 2020 MLS season, taking into account postseason performance. FC Cincinnati have the first pick, followed by Houston Dynamo FC then D.C. United. Expansion side Austin FC are at the bottom of the list.
Clubs can trade up in the order. The Revs swapped waiver draft selection spots with Orlando City SC in exchange for a second round SuperDraft selection last year.