The arrival of Atlanta's MLS franchise should lead to more youth players plying their trade in the city's metro area, according to Georgia United technical director Tony Annan.
Annan, who also coaches the U-14 boys team with the local development academy, said he was encouraged by the contact he's had with the top brass of Atlanta United FC, which recently announced its official name earlier this month. The club will begin play in 2017.
Annan has coached youth soccer in the Atlanta area for the past 20 years, and believes the youth movement to pursue soccer has "exploded" recently, with local teams providing the impetus.
"I've seen it change a lot," said Annan. "There used to be really strong powerhouses around the country, Texas, California, New Jersey... but we've become one of the top powerhouses. Georgia's right up there."
Annan said he was encouraged by conversations with Atlanta United FC team president Darren Eales and the team's technical director Carlos Bocanegra at the team's local events. Annan praised the team's "community-conscious" approach, saying that he'd be open to a "pipeline" of talent between Georgia United and the team.
Georgia United is one of Georgia's two U.S. Soccer Development academies, which provides consistent competition to the area's elite talent. The other academy is Atlanta's Concorde Fire, which is based in Atlanta.
As part of the Georgia United Soccer Alliance, Georgia United picks many of the best players from its member clubs, which it uses to create a team to compete in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy league. One of club's divisions, the Georgia United U-16s, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Development Academy playoffs.
Inside the city, the buzz around Atlanta United has continued to grow. Club officials have said season ticket deposits are approaching 24,000, which exceeds the league's 2015 average attendance. Eales and Bocanegra have made it clear that they want to create a formidable youth academy in order to groom aspiring players for the club.
The team aims for the youth academy to open next summer, but the location is not yet clear.
"I only see it getting better," said Annan. "With the resources they've got, I predict more professionals coming out of the city. We all want Atlanta United to be the best around ... From my standpoint, if one of my guys has potential, I'd want him to move to the next level. I want our kids to be embracing it."