A Myrtle Beach soccer club is joining a nationwide trend that's breaking down a barrier in the sports world.
The Myrtle Beach Mutiny of the National Premier Soccer League has signed the Grand Strand's first openly gay athleteThe Mutiny's sporting director says Anton Hysen will be joining the team in a few weeks.
Pat Piscitelli says Hysen is a great player from an elite soccer family who will be a perfect fit for the team.
"He's a very talented left-footed wing player that we could use, that we need," said Piscitelli. "We didn't have one last year on last year's team and that was kind of something we were missing."
The fact that the 24-year-old Hysen is from Sweden is not unusual for the Mutiny. The team's players come from seven different countries.
But Hysen is openly gay, a first for the Mutiny.
He will join a small number of gay athletes nationwide who are open about their sexual orientation.
Within the past year, NBA player Jason Collins revealed that he is gay. College football star Michael Sam is expected to be drafted as the first openly gay NFL player.
Gay activists say it's important for those athletes to break down barriers in sports, but Piscitelli says what matters to the team is how Hysen performs on the soccer field.
"We care about the person; he's a great role model for the kids on and off the field. He presents himself as a professional."
Piscitelli says Mutiny players are aware that a gay teammate will be joining them and they don't have a problem with it.
"We really think that it's going to be positive encouragement from the fans and the teammates and again, we're all concerned about results, that's our main goal," Piscitelli said.
Hysen has played on college teams with two current Mutiny players. Piscitelli says that's how the team's coaches found out about his soccer abilities and why they sought him out.
Hysen's father played professional soccer in England and his brother is currently a pro in Sweden.
Piscitelli says Hysen is expected to join the team in early April.