Atlanta United announced today that academy players George Bello, Lagos Kunga and Patrick Okonkwo have signed professional contracts. The trio will join Atlanta United as MLS Homegrown Players effective Jan. 1, 2018.
“Since our club’s inception, we have been dedicated to identifying and developing the best local youth talent and today, George, Lagos and Patrick have earned the opportunity to take that next step forward,” Atlanta United Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said. “Each player has been the beneficiary of the continued integration between our First Team and Academy and they’ve proven they belong at this level.”
All three players will travel with their respective academy teams for United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) playoffs that are set to begin on June 22.
“It’s a proud day for our program and for each of these three young men,” Atlanta United Academy Director Tony Annan said. “George, Lagos and Patrick have shown an unrelenting determination to get to this point and I have the utmost confidence in each of them to realize their maximum potential. At the end of the day, our Academy is dedicated to the development of each of our players, and collectively as a staff, we couldn’t be happier for these three who have made the next step in their progression.”
Bello, a 15-year-old defender from Douglasville, Ga., spent this season with Atlanta United U-16s and made 20 appearances with 19 starts. He’s spent the majority of his career on the U.S. Youth National Circuit, currently playing for both the U-16s and U15s. In April, Bello was a part of the U-15 squad that won the prestigious Torneo Delle Nazioni. The U.S. won all four matches he started, including the championship against England.
Kunga, an 18-year old forward from Atlanta, Ga., spent this season with the Atlanta United U-18s and scored 10 goals in 21 appearances. Most recently, Kunga was called up to play with the United States National Team in the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He made four appearances and scored one goal to help lead the team to the quarterfinals of the tournament where they lost to eventual runners-up Venezuela.
Okonkwo, an 18-year old forward from Atlanta, Ga., has been one of the most prolific scorers in the country over the last two years. He spent this past season with the Atlanta United U-18s and led the team with 26 goals in 29 appearances. That mark was the third-highest in all of USSDA for the U-18 age group. During the 2015-16 season, Okonkwo scored 22 goals in 30 appearances for Georgia United, which ranked fourth-highest in all of USSDA.