Head of School Kevin Glass, center, traveled to the Atlanta United Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground in Marietta with Director of Innovation Marsha Maxwell, far right, and curriculum developer Adam Lapish, far left, to inaugurate the new partnership. Photo: AIS

Atlanta United is partnering with the city’s oldest international school on a pioneering educational program designed to support high-school-age players in development with the Major League Soccer franchise.

Atlanta International School is providing a curriculum that will blend in-person instruction and engagement with online learning to ensure young players can earn a Georgia high-school diploma while meeting the rigorous demands of their athletic schedule. 

It’s a new foray for AIS, which has mostly focused on in-person instruction at its Buckhead campus, offering an International Baccalaureate curriculum with a strong emphasis on world languages and innovation. The school starts with 3-year-old pre-K and runs up to 12th grade, with the option of full and partial immersion in Chinese, German, Spanish and French. 

Atlanta United has been operating its academy in the city since 2016, a year before its inaugural MLS season, bringing in players as young as 12. Once they reach high school, U-19 and U-17 players begin to train with the first and second teams, taking on a morning schedule that makes it tough for them to maintain standard school hours. 

“Finding balance between the classroom and the field can become a challenge for any player when they are pursuing a professional soccer career,” said Atlanta United Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra. “This new program with AIS removes nearly every hurdle our players encounter from a schedule perspective, while also delivering a high-quality education in an environment that suits their lifestyle.” 

With few academy players expected to make the cut professionally, Atlanta United knows aims to invest in their academic development, partially by helping them earn college athletic scholarships. 

“We consider it our responsibility to bring kids from the community and push them forward to reach their goals, and that goes beyond the field,” said Academy Director Matt Lawrey in a statement.

Last year, 15 of the 17 Atlanta United Academy players that earned a cumulative $2.2 million in financial aid went to Division I universities. 

But as they set out to achieve big things on the pitch, some kids have had to forfeit the on-campus experiences high schoolers customarily enjoy. 

Atlanta International School’s new model allows them full participation in extracurricular activities and events like sports, prom and field trips.

Some of the instruction in standard courses like science, English and math as well as electives in languages, business and computer science will take place on-campus in Buckhead, while AIS teachers will also meet students at the club’s Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground in Marietta to teach certain courses.

It’s a “bespoke and flexible” partnership developed in partnership with the team’s player welfare department and parents themselves, said Adam Lapish, the curriculum coordinator at AIS. 

Head of School Kevin Glass added the partnership illustrates the AIS focus on inclusion, as well as its history of accommodating children of diplomats and expatriates coming into Atlanta to take up new roles. 

“As an international school, we have a depth of experience and commitment to supporting students who join the school at different times of the year, from different countries, backgrounds and cultures. I am proud to be able to extend that expertise to this new group of talented young people,” Mr. Glass said. 

Differing from the standard tuition payments by semester, players who enroll at AIS will see a tiered fee structure based on the number of courses they end up taking. The school anticipates about 20 members of Atlanta United’s academy to enroll in the first year of the partnership. 

Learn more here.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...