For more than five years, Tony Annan and his staff poured everything into Georgia United. In that short span of time, they grew the club from a nascent challenger in a historical development blind spot in the U.S. to an academy with four U.S. youth national team players. One of those, Andrew Carleton, might be the most talented U17 player in the pool.
Georgia United, which will have its U16 and U18 teams absorbed by Atlanta United this summer, is not a free academy. It falls into that most reviled category of pay-to-play clubs operating in the U.S. Soccer-run Development Academy, about two thirds of which is made up of clubs that require annual dues.
But even as the club collected checks from parents, every drop of the proceeds – 100 percent – was redirected back into the club’s infrastructure. Travel, equipment, training. In the five years Georgia United operated as a standalone academy with no professional links, the club’s coaches and administrators pocketed nothing. Whatever money they made came from other jobs, other outlets.
As Annan told me in April, you can’t do that forever.