Just more than a week after unveiling their inaugural youth academy class, 2017 MLS expansion side Atlanta United have announced their first Homegrown Player signing well in advance of their debut season.
On Thursday, the club unveiled 15-year-old and US youth national team midfielder Andrew Carleton, who will be added to the club's MLS roster in 2017 “upon completion of the necessary Homegrown Player training requirements,” according to the official announcement from the club.
Carleton, who turns 16 on June 22, is currently in residency with the US Under-17 national team and is preparing for qualification for next year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup in India. He’s described by the club as “a creative and technical player” with “an attacking playing style."
“He’s an outstanding young talent with strong ties to Georgia soccer, so we’re very proud to name him the first Homegrown Player in club history,” Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra said in a club statement. "Andrew has been a mainstay with the US youth national teams from a young age, and we look forward to watching him develop as a professional.”
Atlanta United have now made four signings ahead of their expansion season. Alongside Carleton, the club signed Junior Burgos (loaned to Tampa Bay Rowdies), Ghanaian teenager Jeffrey Otoo and 23-year-old goalkeeper Alexander Tambakis, who is currently playing for USL affiliate Charleston Battery.
Carleton, a native of Powder Springs, Georgia, has featured for US youth national teams beginning at the Under-15 level. He also played for Georgia United Soccer Alliance (GUSA), the same club with which Atlanta United partnered last year as part of the launch of the MLS side’s academy set-up, before entering US U-17 residency.
“As a new club coming into the league, it’s critical that we build a strong foundation with young, talented players from our home territory,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said in the same statement. “Andrew is a great example of the deep talent pool we have to draw from in Georgia. We’ve been very impressed with his athletic ability as well as his character off the field.”
As a member of the US U-15 national team, Carleton scored seven goals in five matches at the 2015 Tournament delle Nazioni in Gradisca, Italy (watch his two goals against Austria in May 2015 at the 2:05 and 3:20 marks in the video above). This year with the US U-17s, he scored two goals in four matches at the Aegean Cup.
There is precedent for a Homegrown Player to be signed by an expansion club before they enter the league: Orlando City signed defender Tommy Redding to an MLS contract in March 2014, one year before they began play, and he fulfilled training requirements in USL play.