Photo essays

Pathway to the Pros: The Union’s Homegrown Players

Many of our Homegrown players are celebrating a goal from one of their own in front of a banner highlighting their home states and nicknames. (2020) Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Philadelphia Union’s Homegrown players have had much success and are turning heads in the MLS and piquing interest in Europe. So what exactly is a “Homegrown Player” and what makes them so beneficial to the organization? In order to be as “Homegrown” the player must have resided in the club’s home territory and participated in the club’s youth development system for at least one year. The Philadelphia Union have an incredible facility for their academy located near King of Prussia, Penn. It is currently ranked second in MLS and has produced over 14 Homegrown players, with Jack McGlynn being the newest player to join that list.

The Homegrown player program allows local MLS teams to sign local players from their development academies directly to the MLS first team rosters. Homegrown players do not count against the salary budget if they are registered using supplemental roster slots but will count against it if they are registered to senior roster slots. Now that we know the importance of why developing our own players is so important to the organization, let’s take a look at the Union’s Homegrown players over the years.

Mark McKenzie and Daniel Royer fight for the ball on the sideline. McKenzie wins the battle, while Royer finds himself in the boards. Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Mark McKenzie
Birthday: February 25, 1999
From:Bear, DE
Academy/Team: Union Academy Graduate. Part of the Steel FC Inaugural 2016 campaign
Clubs/College: Delaware Rush and Wilmington Rangers. Wake Forrest university
Position: Defender (#4)
Signed to the 1st team: January 18, 2018
MLS debut: April 13 vs Orlando City FC
2018 Rookie of the Year Finalist
US National Team

Brenden Aaronson takes on of Przemyslaw Frankowski the Chicago Fire at Talen Energy Stadium. (2019) Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Brenden Aaronson (Union’s first-ever Homegrown from NJ)
Birthday: October 22,2000
From: Medford, NJ
Academy/Team: Philadelphia Union Academy at age 10
Clubs: Union Academy, Bethlehem Steel
Position: Midfielder (#22)
Signed to the 1st team: September 17,2018
Signing effective on 2019 for the MLS season
MLS Debut: March 17, 2019 vs Atlanta United FC
First goal: March 17 vs Atlanta FC United
2019 Rookie of the Year Finalist
US National Team

Anthony Fontana (2019) Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Anthony Fontana
Birthday October 14, 1999
From: Newark, DE
Academy/Team: Union Academy Graduate. Part of the Steel FC Inaugural 2016 campaign
Clubs: Penn Fusion, West Chester, and Kirkwood SC
Position: Midfielder (#21)
Signed to the 1st team: July 17, 2017
Signing effective on January 1, 2018 for the MLS season
MLS Debut: July 14, 2017 vs Swansea City
First goal: March 3 vs New England
U20 US National Team

Zack Zandi is running in sync with the Red Bulls II player when Matt Real comes in with the slide tackle. (2019) Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Matt Real
Birthday: July 10,1999
From: Drexel Hill, PA
Academy/Team: Joined the Academy for the 2013-2014 season and played for Union Juniors
Clubs: FC Delco and Lower Merion Soccer Club
Position: Defender (#32)
Singed USL deal with Steel FC: January 17, 2017
Signed to the 1st team: January 18, 2018
MLS debut: March 31 vs Colorado
First Goal: September 6, 2020 vs NY RedBulls
U20 US National Team

Paxten Aaronson takes on Red Bulls 2, Deri Corfe during his debut game. Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Paxten Aaronson
Birthday: August 26, 2003
From: Medford, NJ
Academy/Team: Philadelphia Union Academy
Union II debut: July 22, 2020
First USL Goal: September 2, 2020 vs
Position: Midfielder (#70)
Signed to the 1st team: August 19, 2020 *one of the youngest signings
Signing effective on January 1, 2021 for the the MLS season


Wayne Rooney is disappointed that Matt Freese was able to stop his shot on goal.

Freese denies Wayne Rooney a goal during the 2019 U.S. Open Cup at Audi Field in Washington, DC. (2019) Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Matt Freese
Birthday: September 2, 1998
From: Wayne, PA
Academy/Team: Union Academy Graduate
Clubs/College: Harvard University
Position: Goalkeeper (#1)
Signed to 1st Team: December 21, 2018
MLS Debut: April 20, 2019 vs Montreal
Named to the 2019 MLS Homegrown Game but missed due to injury

Kenardo Forbes, USLC’s newly crowned career assists king (39), is 32 years old. Jack McGlynn is 17. (2020) Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Jack McGlynn
Birthday: July 7, 2003
From: Middle Village, NY
Academy/Team: Philadelphia Union II: signed March 6, 2020
Clubs/Colleges: Union Academy. BW Gottschee Academy
Position: Central Midfielder (#65)
First USL Goal: August 5th, 2020 vs New Yor k Red Bulls ii
USL Game of the Week Honors
Signed to the 1st team: August 17, 2020
Signing effective on January 1, 2021 for the MLS season

Cole Turner during a match with DC Loudin in March of the this year. Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Cole Turner
Birthday: July 7, 2001
From: Churchville, MD
Academy/Team: 5 years at the Philadelphia Union Academy’s residency program
Clubs/Colleges: Baltimore Bays, Baltimore Celtic, 2020 joined Steel FC at preseason-training camp in Clearwater, Fl
Position: Midfielder (#13)
USL Contract: July 17, 2019
USL debut March 10, 2019 vs Birmingham
Signed a pre-contract with the first team on July 17, 2019
Pre-contract signing effective on January 1, 2020

Cole Turner and Jack DeVries go one on one in preseason training at the 76er’s fieldhouse. Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Jack De Vries
Birthday: March 8, 2002
From: Akron, Ohio (Birthplace) Brussels (Hometown)
Academy/Team: Philadelphia Union Academy, Bethlehem Steel, Union II
Position: Midfielder/Forward (#14)
Signed to the 1st team August 18, 2020
MLS debut July 9, 2020 vs NYCFC
U17 US National Team

Homegrown Players not currently with the club
Homegrown Player

Derrick Jones plays one of his final games in a Union uniform in 2019. Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Derrick Jones
Birthday: August 26, 2003
From: Bantama, Ghana
Academy/Team:Lone Star FC, Philadelphia Union Academy
Clubs/College: Junior Lone Star, Philadelphia Union, Bethlehem Steel
Position: Midfielder (#21)
Signed to the 1st team: 2016
Traded to Nashville SC on May 9, 2019
U23 US National Team

Austin Trusty works with the ball during a Red Bulls Game. (2018) Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Auston Trusty
Birthday: August 12, 1998
From: Media, PA
Academy/Team: Union Academy
Clubs/College: Nether United Soccer
Position: Defender (#5)
Signed to the 1st team: 2016
Traded to Colorado Rapids at the end of the 2019 season
U20 US National Team

Photo by Paul Rudderow

Yosef Samuel
Birthday: July 3, 1997
From: Endegagn, Ethiopia
Academy/Team: Union Academy, Bethlehem Steel, Atlanta United 2
Clubs/College: Kalonji Soccer Academy
Position: Midfielder (#5)
Current Team: Hobro IK (Danish Superliga)

Morgan Hackworth
Birthday: January 2, 1997
From: Wallingford, PA
Academy/Team: Union Academy, Bethlehem Steel
Clubs/College: Syracuse Orange, Akson Zips, Tampa Bay Rowdies U23, Peachtree City MOBA, Memphis 901, San Diego Loyal
Position: Defender (#18)
Current Team: San Diego Loyal

Mark McKenzie

Mark McKenzie’ eyes are fixed on theball while a trio, including Sebstain Elney, of Red Bulls players, including Marcus Epps, waits for their chance at the ball. Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Sebastian Elney
Birthday: June 26, 1997
From: Baca Raton, FL
Academy/Team: YSC Academy, Maryland Terrapins, New York Bulls II
Clubs/College: University of Maryland,
Position: Forward (#39)
Current Team: Red Bulls II

Photo By Earl Gardner

Photo By Earl Gardner

Zach Pfeffer
Birthday: January 6, 1995
From: Dresher, PA
Academy/Team: Philadelphia Union
Clubs/College: IMG Soccer, FC Delco, YMS Celtic, Montgomery United
Signed: December 22, 2010
MLS Start: September 1, 2010 vs C.D. Guadalajara
Position: Midfielder
Current Team: Retired
U23 US National Team

Photo by Paul Rudderow

Jimmy McLaughlin
Birthday: April 30, 1993
From: Bryn Mawr, PA
Academy/Team: Philadelphia Union, Harrisburg City Islanders, FC Cincinnati
Clubs/College: FC Delco, Colgate Raiders
Signed: December 12, 2011
MLS Start: October 24, 2011 vs Sporting Kansas City
Position: Midfielder (#20)
Current Team: FC Cincinnati

Photo By Earl Gardner

Photo By Earl Gardner

Christian Hernandez
Birthday: October 30, 1993
From: Guadalajara, Mexico
Academy/Team: LA Galaxy, (PDA) Philadelphia Players Academy
Clubs/College: FC Delco, Colgate Raiders
Signed: Marsh 12, 2012
MLS Start: vs Colorado Rapids
Position: Attacking Midfielder/Forward (#8)
Current Team: Philadelphia Fury

Union II Homegrown Players to watch:

Nathan Harriel, Selmir Miscic, Shanyder Borgelin, Issa Rayyan, Ben Ofeimu, Zach Zandi, Sean Bettenhausen, Patrick Bohui

Union II players that we might see as the next Homegrown Players on the 1st team. Photos by Marjorie Elzey


  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    Really cool. Thanks for the pics and info. Always enjoy learning about the homegrowns. It’s really awesome to see how some are really panning out.

  2. Crazy list. I have watched since the beginning and I had no idea that Samuel/Hackworth/Elney were actually homegrowns. I knew they came up in the system in various ways but I did not know we gave them HG deals.

    • I found a list of most of the Homegrowns with the Union and they were listed. I found that since they came before the forming of the Academy, they may have played in the Philadelphia Players Academy or through our local soccer clubs. I was very surprised at how many players have been developed through our systems within the Union.

  3. What’s the difference between a supplemental roster spot and a senior spot as far as the player is concerned? Is there a reason why a homegrown player wouldn’t just remain in a supplemental spot their entire career? Or is there a maximum length of time/age/salary that someone can be a supplemental?

    • A senior roster spots, the first 20 spots on the roster count against the club’s salary budget. The club can choose to leave spot 19 & 20 open so they can use the allotted funds on the 18 players in the senior roster spots. The club can only have 20 players in senior spots unless a player has a season ending injury, is on the injury list or on a transfer. The remaining spots, 21-30 are supplemental spots which means their salaries do not count towards the club’s salary budget. This is simplified explanation so I have copied a link with from the MLS that explains all of the intricacies of the roster slots, Homegrowns, Next Generation Adidas players along with Designated Player regulations to give you more information.

    • If I may presume to add one detail to Marjorie’s explanation, Supplemental slots 21-24 inclusive must be paid the Senior Roster Minimum Salary, in 2020 $81K and change. Slots 25-28, 29 &30 if 29 & 30 are qualified and filled, must be paid the reserve roster minimum salary, — the title is now obsolete but the idea is not — which is $63K and change.

  4. Lots of great info here! Thanks for the great list and pics of players!!

  5. Lola Borrelli says:

    Derrick Jones birthday would make him 18 years old today. Ummm, I think they have his bd wrong

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