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Efrain Morales returns to Atlanta United

Homegrown and Bolivian International extended through 2026

FBL-SOUTHAM-U20-CHI-BOL Photo by JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty Images

Atlanta United announced the contract extension of Homegrown Player and Bolivian national team player Efrain Morales through the 2024 season with options in 2025 and 2026.

“Efraín is a player who has continued to improve along his pathway from our inaugural U-12 side to Atlanta United 2 and the First Team,” Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said. “We’re excited to sign him to a contract extension and look forward to his continued development at the club.”

The 19-year-old centerback has made significant progress with Atlanta United 2 and with Bolivian youth and senior national teams over the last two seasons. During the 2023 season, Morales started all 20 of the matches he appeared in with 1,722 minutes of play, including for all five clean sheets this season. He used his 6-foot 3-inch (1.91 meters) size to lead the team in aerial duel percentage (69.2%). The Bolivian American also finished second on the team in passing accuracy at 91.4% and completed passes with 1,091.

Many fans may be surprised that Morales is still a teenager since we have been hearing about him for years. His journey with Atlanta United began on the team’s inaugural Academy U-12 team and he signed a Homegrown contract on Aug. 12, 2020, at just 16 years old shortly after traveling to go on trial with Manchester United alongside then-Academy Director Tony Annan. He made his professional debut with ATL UTD 2 a few days later on Aug. 16, 2020, against the Charleston Battery in the USL Championship and scored as a substitute. His first professional start came two days later in a 2-2 draw against Miami FC. Overall, Morales has battled leg injuries to limit his time on the field but has still made 54 professional appearances, all for ATL UTD 2.

On the international stage, Morales earned six caps with the Bolivia U-20 side while participating in the Conmebol U-20 Championships earlier this year against his former teammates Vicente Reyes and David Mejia. Morales also earned a call-up to join Bolivia’s senior national team camp for the first time for the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers in September with a chance at being added to the Bolivian Copa America squad next summer.

Morales still has immense talent and potential to become a physically gifted defender with above-average passing ability and technical control. He is still growing into his body and will continue to add strength and control as he enters his 20s and will likely continue to develop the mental side of the game in ways that could transition him from being an elite prospect to becoming an elite MLS player. With a new contract secured lasting up to 3 seasons, Morales can focus on taking the next big step into a wide-open centerback depth chart alongside fellow academy product Noah Cobb. With Morales’s unique abilities, he could slide right into the possession-heavy centerback role that anchors Gonzalo Pineda’s system.