Former Pitt defender Bryce Washington played a pivotal role in the Panthers’ run to the College Cup last season, and his hard work paid off on Friday, as Major League Soccer club Atlanta United signed him to a homegrown contract. The deal will keep him with the club through the end of 2022 with options through 2025.
“Bryce was one of the top NCAA players in the country last year, and we’re really excited to welcome him back to the club,” Atlanta United vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement. “Every player has a different development process, and Bryce complemented his progression by having the opportunity to play regularly for four years at a top level collegiately. He’s an athletic center back who will continue to develop with more playing time.”
Washington is an Atlanta native who attended North Atlanta High School. He was a member of Atlanta United’s U18 team prior to his time at Pitt, and during his time with his hometown team, he appeared in 30 matches, leading the team in starts and minutes played, and scored three goals. And thanks in part to the efforts of Washington, the team earned a No. 1 national ranking and won a division title.
The 6’2”, 163-pound defender began his college career at Rutgers and became a starter as a freshman. He scored his first collegiate goal with the Scarlet Knights in 2017 and transferred to Pitt between the 2018 and 2019 seasons. In Pittsburgh, Washington played in 38 games and made 33 starts. He had a hand in 11 clean sheets and contributed six goals and one assist. Washington also ended his career on a high note offensively, as three of his six goals and his lone assist came this spring, and two of those goals were game-winners.
After the signing was announced, Washington expressed his gratitude to Pitt in a statement.
“Transferring to Pitt was one of the greatest decisions of my life,” said Washington. “From the moment I stepped onto campus, the guys made me feel at home and showed me what it means to be a Pitt footballer. The coaching staff, led by Coach Vidovich is second to none and pushed me to grow as a footballer, student and teammate. I will forever be grateful for my years at Pitt and will forever cherish each moment I spent with the team I consider family. As I take the next step in my playing career as a professional, I will take with me the many lessons I’ve learned both on and off the pitch at the University of Pittsburgh. Hail to Pitt.”
Atlanta United joined Major League Soccer as an expansion team in 2017, but the team gained instant popularity in a soccer-hungry market and has been successful since its founding. In 2018, the club won its first MLS Cup. And in 2019, Atlanta United won its first U.S. Open Cup. After that, the team suffered setbacks in a season complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the team is looking to bounce back during the 2020 season.
Washington is one of two Pitt alums that are currently signed to an MLS club. The other is former Pitt striker Edward Kizza, who plays for the New England Revolution. Like Kizza, Washington is likely to work his way up before he will have a chance to snag a prominent role, and as a non-draft pick, he could face a longer path to a starting job than his ex-teammate.