Atlanta United announced Friday the club has signed Academy director Tony Annan to a multiyear contract extension.
Annan has been with the club since April 2016 and has overseen the signing of eight professional players, as well as 31 players who have earned Division I scholarships.
“Youth development is a key component for Atlanta United and critical in the club’s growth as part of the international soccer landscape," Atlanta United president Darren Eales said. "We’re excited that Tony will continue to build upon the infrastructure we have in place. Around the world, it has taken years to properly build Academy systems, and Tony has done a remarkable job in a short period of time in both the development of young players, as well as the on-field success against already-established academies throughout the USA and Canada. With Tony’s leadership, we look forward to developing the next great stars of Atlanta United here in our backyard.”
With 24 years of coaching experience, Annan was hired as Academy manager in 2016 and was soon promoted to Academy director in December. As Atlanta United became the first MLS Academy to launch before its First Team, Annan oversaw one of the most successful seasons for any academy across the board during the 2016-17 United States Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) season. Serving as head coach of the U-17s, Annan won the club’s first piece of hardware, claiming the national championship that season. In addition, the U-19s also won the Southeast Division and finished the season as the No. 1 overall national seed. At the conclusion of the season, George Bello, Lagos Kunga and Patrick Okonkwo each signed as MLS Homegrown Players, joining Andrew Carleton and Chris Goslin, who had signed the year prior.
“More than anything else, Tony has done a tremendous job of implementing our club’s style of play and core values across all of our Academy teams featuring more than 130 youth players,” vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra said. “In addition, despite only existing for three years, we’ve been able to monitor our overall progress, which has led to the cultivation of a holistic player development approach. Tony has played a major role in implementing that philosophy.”
Several other Atlanta United Academy players have gone on to sign professional contracts or Division I scholarships under Annan’s leadership. Alessandro Castro, Jackson Conway and Laurent Kissiedou have signed with Atlanta United 2, the club’s United Soccer League (USL) team. Meanwhile, 31 players have earned Division I scholarships, including 13 who were recently honored during a National Signing Day ceremony at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground.
On the field, the Academy has sustained success across all levels. Most recently, the U-14s won the 2019 Nexen Manchester City Cup, a 24-team tournament featuring clubs throughout the world. Atlanta defeated CF Monterrey 3-2 in the final. Elsewhere, the U-19s and U-17s have combined to win four Southeast Division titles, in addition to qualifying for the playoffs in each season. Academy teams have also won Generation adidas East Region qualifying twice.
“I’m thrilled the club has recognized the value of work that has been done over the last few years,” Annan said. “Continuity is imperative in youth development, and along with the staff we have in place, I’m eager for our future and to build on the successes that we’ve had.”
The USSDA season continues with the U-19 and U-17 playoffs, which will be held from June 17-25 at the SoCal Sports Complex in Oceanside, Calif. The Atlanta United U-19s were drawn into Group H along with academies from Crossfire Premier (Seattle, Wash.), Real Salt Lake and Bethesda (Md.). Atlanta’s U-17s were drawn into Group A along with academies from FC Dallas, Vancouver Whitecaps and Orange County Surf Soccer Club.