Atlanta United blazes new territory with Diego Lopez signing for ATL UTD 2

ATL UTD 2, Atlanta United's second team that will make its debut in the USL in 2018, has signed 16-year-old forward Diego Lopez from FC Golden State, which is based in Southern California.

The U.S. U-17 national team forward was one of the first four signings for ATL UTD 2 along with AJ Cochran, Jack Metcalf and Yosef Samuel, who have played in the USL.

Two other U-17s have signed with MLS teams: George Bello (Atlanta United) and Gianluca Busio (Sporting KC).

Unlike Bello, whose Homegrown rights Atlanta United held, Lopez could not sign with Atlanta United as a Homegrown player. By signing him, Atlanta United could later move him for its first team via MLS's player mechanism for USL signings.

In previous U-17 cycles, Lopez would have presumably been in residency, but the program U.S. Soccer introduced in 1999 was finally dropped. U.S. U-17s players whose rights weren't tied to MLS teams via Homegrown Player rules have moved to MLS academies or second teams in the past, but it was usually after the World Cup.

Atlanta United has not only blazed new territory with its signings of players like Miguel Almiron and Ezequiel Barco, who was signed from Independiente for an estimated $15 million, but it has five players already signed to Homegrown contracts: returnees Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin from the 2017 U.S. U-17 World Cup team and first-year players Lagos Kunga, Patrick Okonkwo and Bello.

Atlanta United has also brought into its academy program players from outside the area who have moved to Atlanta. They include goalkeeper Justin Garces and defender Rayshaun McGann from the last U-17 national team cycle.

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