Academy graduate Benji Lopez, US U-18 striker, signs for RSL

Benji Lopez chases down a ball against Denmark U-20s during an RSL preseason camp - Garrett Cleverly

Benji Lopez, Real Salt Lake-Arizona academy graduate and a member of the United States Under-18s squad, has signed for Real Salt Lake, RSL communications confirmed today.

Lopez, 18, is best deployed as a forward and has been one of the highest rated young forwards in the U.S. youth development system.

Lopez, who has been training with Real Salt Lake off and on since exiting the academy, and who trained with the club during preseason and at times last year, should join as a homegrown player.

From San Diego, the striker joined the academy as one of several out-of-market allowances given to MLS academies. There was some speculation that he would sign during preseason, but the roster filled up quickly. Lopez now joins following David Viana's departure cleared a spot in the roster.

Alongside Lopez, Carlos Salcedo and Lalo Fernandez are graduates of the Arizona academy. Real Salt Lake has never held more than one homegrown player on its roster — and while Salcedo is not technically an HGP, three graduates of the Arizona academy marks an exciting milestone in the club's history.

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