Local Spotlight

Local Spotlight: Drexel Hill native Matthew Real’s journey filled with hard-work and dedication

Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC. Matthew Real #47 of Bethlehem Steel FC is a Drexel Hill, PA native.

Brazilian blood

In Brazil they live for soccer. Soccer is akin to a religion in the country and its people adore the game with a passion unmatched around the globe. Soccer is ingrained in Brazilian culture and it’s no different for Drexel Hill native and Bethlehem Steel FC defender Matthew Real.

Real is the child of a former Brazilian footballer who instilled an impressive work ethic into his son from the ripe age of four. Through individualized training sessions, Real and his father Pablo shared a love of soccer that provided Real with the framework to become the professional he is today.

Real’s father grew up in Brazil and thrived on the pitch. Prior to moving to the United States, he made a club team coached by Brazilian football legend Manuel Francisco dos Santos, popularly known as “Garrincha.” Garrincha is known to some throughout the soccer world as arguably the greatest dribbler the sport has ever seen, enticing crowds to shout chants of olé as he passed defenders as if they were taking in a bullfighting spectacle. Real’s father unfortunately missed out on the opportunity to play for the legend due to Garrincha’s tragic death in January of 1983 from cirrhosis of the liver. Shortly after his death, the Real family gained access to America and made the move north for renewed opportunities.

Like father like son

Real’s father never lost his passion for soccer as he passed his love of the game onto his son Matthew. Real explained they would spend countless hours outside completing various drills while he absorbed every ounce of fútbol knowledge from his dad. “It was always 1v1, me and him,” said Real. The intimate training sessions proved useful for Real as he continuously overpowered his peers and slowly built his soccer knowledge.

Real played for the Lower Merion Rat Pack for roughly five or six years and saw steady improvements along the way. After his stint with Lower Merion he joined FC Delco. FC Delco was one of the best club teams in the country during the mid to late 2000’s, spurring a connection with Philadelphia Union thanks to the success. In 2010 at age nine, Real was first introduced to the Union Juniors program once the team’s inception was a reality. The Union simply ran local training programs to broaden their reach among youth soccer players in the region. Real bought in and was introduced to Philly’s Academy framework when it began in 2013. Both current Union and Steel FC coaches, Jim Curtin and Brendan Burke, first met Matt back in 2010. Real graduated from the YSC Academy this past June.

Opportunity seized

As Real continued to play for the Union Academy, the connection between the Union and himself remained lively. The Union provided Real with a difficult life decision: Entertain numerous collegiate offers or head down the pathway of the pros. December of 2015 arrived and Real verbally committed to play for the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest beginning in the Fall of 2017, a top collegiate program. However, the professional environment provided by Philadelphia Union proved to be a crucial deciding factor for the young Real as he signed professionally last January with Bethlehem Steel FC at age 17. “The thing that’s so good about the situation that I am in now is that every day I come in, it’s a professional environment. Whether I am with the first team or not, I can see the first team train, and I can see the things I need to work on to potentially get myself in that position.”

Play abroad

Similar to our previous Local Spotlight player, Yosef Samuel, Real also has international experience with the United States U18 team. He has been a part of tournament teams that traveled to Mexico, Argentina, and even Czech Republic where he and his team were champions. “It’s really good experience because it’s always good to measure yourself – your talent – against the rest of the world. You want to know how an American is ranking against some of the best kids in Europe,” Real said. Yosef and Real both handle international camps with class and poise. “Mostly for me, what I am gaining out of these games is more exposure so I can see the different styles of play in different parts of the world.”

Continued improvement

Matthew Real is a perfect example of Philadelphia Union’s investment in youth. He was first exposed at age nine and signed at 17. The Union have dedicated their resources to bolstering their Academy program, and the fruits of those labors are clear to see in a player like Real.

Humble off the field, Real plays with a fiery passion for Steel FC. That passion was on full display in Bethlehem’s most recent victory Saturday against Toronto FC II. Toronto favored an offensive system that targeted Real often.  Speedster Jordan McCrary continually challenged Real on the left wing all match and the two players collided multiple times. Post whistle skirmishes were abundant as Real stood his ground time and time again.  Early in the match Real went in heavy on an opposing Toronto II player and McCrary took exception – running directly up to Real after the whistle. Real responded with a two-hand shove in McCrary’s direction followed by a lot of jawing back and forth. Both players received yellows for the altercation, but their spats continued throughout the match. It is clear Matt Real understands that Philly fans love to see players unafraid to stand their ground.

So far this season, Real has made 10 starts and logged close to 900 minutes played. He began the preseason with a minor injury, but remains healthy to date. Steel FC’s most recent match on August 13th resulted in an impressive home victory at Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium. Bethlehem now sit in sole possession of sixth place with an impressive 33 points – already eclipsing last year’s total. They look to extend their current winning streak to three Wednesday night on the road against the current number one team,  Charlotte Independence at 7 P.M. The match can be seen on ESPN3.com as part of the “Game of the Week” feature.

The Philadelphia Union basically granted Real with the keys to a brand-new whip, a road-map to success, and an endless supply of gas. The only thing Real needs to do is show up and grind day in and day out. Which is exactly what Real is doing. He possesses a rock-solid support system in a loving family that only wants to see him succeed. His father and mother could not be more proud of his accomplishments. With a sister recently graduating from college and beginning a career in nursing, both Real children have bright futures. Soccer fans should pay close attention to Matthew’s impact with Bethlehem and hope to see him in the Union blue and gold down the line.


  1. Nice story. Still remember him playing when he was 10 with his Rat Pack team. Good luck to him!

  2. Thank you. Really digging these deep dives into potential future stars.

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