As soccer fans, it’s always exciting when a young and talented player comes onto the scene and creates a buzz. Make no mistake about it, that’s exactly what Atlanta United’s first ever Homegrown player, Andrew Carleton, is doing.
Even before he committed his playing future to MLS, Carleton was making a name for himself on the youth international stage for the United States under-17 team. It could be argued that the Powder Springs native is one of the hottest prospects to enter the league in quite some time.
While Atlanta United will be doing everything they can to temper the hype and expectations, that isn’t stopping the national media from going wild.
ESPNFC recently published an article titled “Who will be the breakout U.S. national team stars in 2017?” Interestingly enough, the 16-year-old’s name appears on the list.
Andrew Carleton, MF, Atlanta United: A deep cut from MLSSoccer.com's Doyle on the 16-year-old Atlanta United Homegrown Player signing: "I'll pretend that Andrew Carleton takes a match and turns MLS into a bonfire this season to the extent that he's impossible to ignore. I put the chance of that happening at about 2 percent, however." So you're saying there's a chance...
Common sense tells us not to expect too much from Carleton in Atlanta’s inaugural season. After-all he is SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. However, the idea that some magical scenario occurs and the USMNT comes calling isn’t the craziest one ever thought up. By midseason, Carleton will have hit the 17 years of age mark, an age that has seen several of the USMNT’s stars debut. The most recent example of this is obviously Christian Pulisic, who made his USMNT debut just a few months after making his professional debut with Borussia Dortmund.
A lot of variables have to fall into place for Bruce Arena to come calling, but stranger things have happened in the world of soccer. The biggest obstacle standing in the way of Carleton and consistent playing time for Atlanta United this season is his commitment to the U.S. U-17 team and their bid for the World Cup. The actual tournament starts in October, which would occur right in the thick of the MLS playoff race. Then there’s the qualifying process which takes place in April. Taking into account warm-up matches, that’s a full month of soccer missed just as the season gets going.
International matches on the big stage like this will also offer him the chance to impress the USMNT, but it will come down to his play in MLS against players much older than him. If he proves he can take the physicality of pro soccer, then that’s when the door could open in a crazy scenario.
In case you were wondering just how much actual hype will be surrounding Andrew Carleton once he puts on that Atlanta United kit, this should give you an idea. He’s not just your typical young player. There will be a spotlight on him from day one.