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Philadelphia Union Sign 15-Yr Old


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Interesting to see that he also turned down Hoffenheim to sign with PU. That doesn't seem to be the type of decision that most Canadian kids would make, but perhaps that will change as our MLS teams continue improving their academies.

Union Sign First Home-Grown Player Zach Pfeffer

The Union had been teasing its fans with a player announcement for days. Some thought it was the official announcement of long-rumored FC Köln keeper Faryd Mondragon, but seeing as the European transfer window won't open until January, that was unlikely.

What the River End faithful would have found more unlikely, however was that the team was not about to sign a 39 year old to a designated player contract, but instead a 15 year old kid to the team’s first ever home-grown contract.

Having impressed with the Union academy team that competed in the MLS U-17 SUM Cup, Zach Pfeffer trained with the first team for the rest of the season, and represented the club in a friendly against Chivas USA in August, coming on as a sub late in the game. In November, he spent two weeks working out with Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim, who were so taken with the teenage midfielder that they wanted him to stay.

But Pfeffer and the Union had other ideas, however. The native of Dresher PA, just 45 minutes north of PPL Park, opted for his hometown club and became the fourth youngest player in the history of Major League Soccer.

This signing, however, is about so much more that the signature of one talented player. Union manager Peter Nowak, former coach of the USA Under-23 team, and his assistant John Hackworth, a youth player guru who as head coach of the USA Under-17s and Technical Director of US Soccer’s Bradenton Academy oversaw the development of the country’s most promising young players, had identified youth development as a key component of their vision for Philadelphia.

That project began by establishing youth links with local teams from lower divisions, Harrisburg City Islanders of USL and Reading United A.C. of PDL. This arrangement enabled the Union to send promising young draft picks like Jack McInerney, Toni Stahl, and Nick Zimmerman out on short-term loans to gain experience while opening avenues for the club to snap up players like Sheanon Williams and the club’s first Pennsylvanian signing, J.T. Noone.

The signing of Pfeffer signals a further step in Nowak and Hackworth’s plans to establish a true club setup on the banks of the Delaware River. Home-grown players do not count against the cap in MLS, making them a cost-effective and relatively risk-free way to add depth to a team and secure future stars. The current MLS rookie of the year, Andy Najar of DC United, plays on a home-grown contract.

While the signing of a professional contract costs Pfeffer potential collegiate eligibility, Coach Hackworth believes that the teenager is making an informed and considered decision.

Speaking to Union play-by-play broadcaster JP Dellacamera, he said of Pfeffer “He is the kind of player, but also the kind of person, who very clearly stated ‘I want to be a pro. This is my goal and aspiration.’ He’s a bright kid off the field, too. He’s extremely academic, he’s not going to throw away his education at the same time, he’ll continue that, but he knew what he wanted right from the start. When you find a player like that, who has the potential and the talent that he has, then this kind of opportunity will allow him to hopefully reach his goals.”

Pfeffer, for his part, is looking forward to playing in front of the Philadelphia fans. In a video on the Union’s official website, he said “I think the Philadelphia Union fans are the best fans in the league, and every game the atmosphere is electric. It’s a wonderful stadium to play in, and I’m very excited to play in here the next few years.”


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the one and only reason for MLS signing these over the hill players is to get the casual fan that watches the European and South American leagues is for name recognition. I don't agree on the amounts they are signing these over the hill but famous players. But I understand why. That is why I totally agree with everyone that this 15yr old signing is great news.

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