Three soccer players join Atlanta United development program

A trio of local players is making the leap from Storm Soccer Academy to MLS club Atlanta United’s development academy this fall, joining another homegrown star. Bluffton’s Juan Zuniga and Mikey Chappelear and Hilton Head Island’s Alan Leyva reported to Atlanta United in early August, following in the footsteps of Hilton Head native James Brighton, who enjoyed great success in his first full season in the academy.

Brighton is returning for his second stint with the club after leading the U-16 team with 19 goals in 26 games. He helped the squad win the U.S. Soccer Development Academy championship with a 2-1 win over FC Dallas’ academy on July 16.

Joining the MLS club’s development program means a 10-month commitment to playing a national schedule, typically while home schooling or attending a virtual school. Most players in the program home to earn college scholarships, though some will go on to play professionally.