After a successful inaugural season, Atlanta United announced plans to continue their growth in 2018 on Tuesday.
The club will own and operate a second-division team that will join the USL in 2018. The club’s name and crest will be released in the coming months.
The club should give an opportunity to the young players currently on the ATLUTD roster including US U-20 youth internationals Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin as well as the three Homegrown Players the club signed earlier this year for the 2018 season: George Bello, Lagos Kunga (also a US U-20 international) and Patrick Okonkwo.
“This is a great opportunity for our club’s long-term success to be able to bridge the gap between our best in class academy and our first team,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said in a team statement. “Establishing a top-level academy was the first priority for our club and while our staff has done a marvelous job in identifying and developing young players, the next step has always been to create the pathway for the 18-to-19-year-old player who needs to continue his development before competing for a starting position at the MLS level. We’ll now have the capability to develop players in our system from the time they’re 12 years-old until the minute they reach the first team.
“We also want to thank [previous USL affiliate] Charleston Battery for being fantastic partners over the last two years. The Battery are a first-class organization and we’ll continue to maintain a professional working relationship with the club.”
Atlanta had a partnership with the Battery the past two years and a total of seven ATLUTD players appeared for the Battery in 2017. Atlanta forward Romario Williams was a star for the South Carolina side, scoring 15 goals which was tied for the fourth-most in the league.
Atlanta’s USL team will train alongside the Atlanta United first and academy teams, while the team will play its home matches at Coolray Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves' Triple-A affiliate Gwinnett Braves. Coolray Field opened in 2008 and will have a soccer capacity of 10,427.
“Atlanta United’s organization has quickly proven itself among the leaders in Major League Soccer, and we are delighted to welcome them to our already world-class ownership groups that make up the USL,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “The caliber of organization that has been assembled by Arthur Blank and his team has raised the bar for professional soccer in the United States, and their addition to our league is another step toward the USL’s goal of becoming one of the best Division II professional soccer leagues in the world, on par with the English Championship, Liga Adelante and 2. Bundesliga.”