Atlanta United's Bello ready to break out in second season

One of the possible starters for Atlanta United at left back leads a life that's pretty different from the typical 17-year-old.

"When you're in public, people come up to you like, 'are you George Bello?'" said George Bello. "I thought that was really cool."

There have been lots more selfies with fans lately for the just-turned 17 years old Bello, a Douglasville, Georgia native getting ready for his second pro season with the Five Stripes. The talented defender has been part of the United States men's under-17 national team, and observers wonder if one day he'll be part of the senior men's national team.

In the short term, Bello, who made his MLS debut as a 16-year-old last season, could earn some starts -- or a lot of them -- at left back for the defending MLS Cup champions.

"No spot is guaranteed," said Bello, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Tuesday by waking up early for practice and other team obligations. "You just have to keep fighting for it and hope good things come."

After impressing during his limited work last season, Bello was seen as a candidate for a bigger role in 2019. That scenario expanded when Atlanta traded last season's starting left back Greg Garza to FC Cincinnati in December.

"I was like, 'wow,' I wasn't expecting it at all," said Bello. "Obviously texted him, told him I really looked up to him and to keep in contact with me. I was just surprised ... but I looked at it also as an opportunity, but I still have to keep my mind focused and don't get complacent."

Bello says that he's gotten plenty of questions lately about if he added muscle during the offseason, He said he didn't do much weight-lifting or train to add body mass, joking maybe his new haircut makes him look bigger; or, the teenager added, maybe it's just part of growing up.