United States Under-18 international Will Vint has joined Atlanta United's academy after a proposed move to Manchester United was scuttled by visa issues.
Vint, 16, had signed with Manchester United back in July following a trial. The Real Colorado product also had trials with Fulham and Everton, where his father Peter was formerly the academy director. The younger Vint was set to play with Manchester United's U18s this season, but his inability to obtain a visa meant his stay in England was cut short. Now, he's ready to resume his career with Atlanta.
"I'm really excited to really just start playing again, and I think Atlanta is a club that can challenge me and really bring me to my full potential," said Vint via telephone. "The people here are really nice and really supportive and I think I'll really be able to improve and [thrive] in this environment."
Vint was born in Chandler, Arizona, but moved to Colorado when he was three. He spent the past two years living in the U.K. when his father took the job at Everton. But Peter Vint left the club in March of 2017 and continued to be paid for some time after that. While he was ultimately offered another job in the U.K., according to Will Vint, that position was secured six days after the elder Vint's original work visa expired, forcing Will and his mother to leave the country.
FIFA rules state that a foreign player under the age of 18 can only sign with a club if accompanied by a parent who is working in the country for reasons other than their child's career. The elder Vint's expired work visa meant that had Will Vint played for Manchester United, he would have been in violation of that statute. Will Vint could have secured a student visa, but that wouldn't have allowed him to play games for Manchester United's U18s.
"It was really disappointing when it actually happened," said Vint about the visa issue. "But before I actually had to leave, we knew it was a possibility for a while. I had wrapped my head around it and if it came to [leaving] I was going to make the most of my next step and just do whatever I can to keep going."
Upon returning to the U.S., Vint explored moving to several MLS clubs -- a list that reportedly included Sporting Kansas City and the Philadelphia Union -- but the Five Stripes ultimately won out.
MLS teams often get rights to youth players who reside in their geographic territory, and while Vint spent much of his youth career with Real Colorado, since he had relocated to England, the Colorado Rapids had no claim on him as a Homegrown Player. That left him free to pick his destination, which was ultimately Atlanta.
"The big thing was getting opportunities with the USL team and maybe into the first team for preseason next season," said Vint about choosing Atlanta. "But just the opportunity to play with older players is appealing to me. When I played with older, stronger, faster players it pushes you to improve everything about your game, and them telling me straight off the bat that I'm going to have those opportunities really helped draw me in."
Vint said his best position is as a central midfielder given the range and accuracy of his passing. And his likely pathway through the team's USL side was confirmed by Atlanta United academy director Tony Annan.
"I think Vint's got a really high ceiling. We'll push him to the USL team really quickly to give him a test and see what he's got," said Annan via telephone.
"He'll factor into the USL, if not this season in October then definitely at the beginning of the next season he'll be involved. Based on his ability and the environment he's come from, he should be tested, but he has to earn that right."