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Union announce transfer of Brenden Aaronson to Red Bull Salzburg

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union announced the long-rumored transfer of Homegrown midfielder Brenden Aaronson to Red Bull Salzburg on Friday morning.

“We want to establish a unique identity of developing young players through our academy with an end goal of cultivating and developing their talent to the level that allows them to compete against the very best in the world,” Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said in a press release. “We are incredibly proud that Brenden is leading the way as the first Philadelphia Union homegrown player to test himself against top European competition”

The transfer fee for Aaronson is record-breaking: the highest ever transfer fee for a U.S.-based homegrown player, on top of being easily the highest transfer fee in Union history. Although the Union did not announce salary figures, Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jonathan Tannenwald (among others) reports that the fee is $6 million with $3 million in performance incentives. The Union will also get a sell-on fee of 10 to 20 percent for a future sale of Aaronson by Salzburg.

“Playing in Europe has always been a part of my dream. I’ve been able to accomplish the first part of my dream, to play for my home city, and am so excited for this continuation of my journey,” said Aaronson.

Aaronson, 19, became a key player in Jim Curtin’s Union side upon joining the first team at the start of last season. He has appeared in 46 matches, starting 43, in his MLS career, producing seven goals and seven assists.

Curtin, who has coached Aaronson since both were with the Union Academy, described Aaronson as “a special player who is always looking to improve.”

Aaronson will join the Austrian side, helmed by American manager Jesse Marsch, in January. Salzburg have won seven consecutive league titles in Austria and have qualified for the group stages of this year’s UEFA Champion’s League. Salzburg has a reputation as a stepping-stone club in Europe, having played a part in the development of star players like Erling Haaland and Sadio Mane.

“We’ve watched Brenden Aaronson for some time now and he’s gotten better with each game,” said Marsch. “I think Brenden will adapt immediately to the way we play [and] we are really excited for him to be a member of our team.”

The attacking midfielder’s absence creates a hole in the Union’s 2021 squad. Homegrown options to take Aaronson’s No. 10 rule include Anthony Fontana, who has five goals in just 13 appearances this season, and Aaronson’s younger brother, Paxten. Tanner, armed with cash from the sale of Aaronson, may also look to bring in a player from outside the United States to fill that role.

In the meantime, Aaronson will stay in Chester and help the Union compete for their first-ever MLS Cup. The Union have already qualified for the playoffs and sit second in the Eastern Conference and Supporter’s Shield races, just three points behind leaders Toronto FC.

“We’re happy to have [Aaronson] through the end of our 2020 season and I promise fans we’ll make the most of our time with him,” said Curtin.


  1. Fee is much higher than i had hoped and supposedly the 3 million in added incentives are probable to be earned

    GREAT bit of business and a message to those who thought they could get McKenzie for a million or 2 hahaha

    Going to miss watching him play though-that is the part that sucks…

  2. Wow.

    Just wow.

    This is a fantastic deal and is huge for both the player and the club.

    Now to find streaming of the Austrian league…

  3. I’m pleased with this transfer fee. I was worried that based on some of the things I had heard, that the Union would be getting less than half of that. 6 million now, and depending on what the performance clauses are and a later sale, that number could reasonably go as high as 10 or 11 million.

    However, while I wish Aaronson all the best going forward, I do wonder how this is going to effect our midfield depth in a lot of ways. I am mostly okay with Fontana getting Aaronson’s starting spot, but definitely wouldn’t mind the Union trying to go and get a more experienced CAM for the role. I think the Union really could benefit from signing a more technical CAM capable of breaking down defenses (think Borek Dockal), with Fontana playing as an 8 or as a second striker.

    Most importantly, Aaronson’s departure needs to be addressed both in terms of his starting spot, and the fact he can generally slot in one of the eights, especially if Curtin is reluctant to play Fontana there. If one of the homegrowns is good to go there, then great. Otherwise I think we’ll need to do a new signing, ideally for a veteran depth piece.

    • I could not agree more. I think that Fontana should move into more of a starting role, but I want to see a signing from outside of the US . Someone who can really contribute in the position that Brenden is leaving

    • The homegrown for 2021 with the best shot to have an impact of the first team to some degree next season may be Jack McGlynn.
      He learned to be a USLC level DCM in a couple of months. He was already and ACM and a CM for the diamond.
      That said, the gap between USLC and MLS is large.
      Paxten Aaronson did not have as much effect on USLC right away. He defends and runs just like his brother. He has plenty of offensive growth opportunities in front of him at this point.
      given the absence of the Open Cup there has been no opportunity to evaluate how much progress Jack de Vries has been making. I can say that in the Union II season finale against Pittsburgh, for his 56 minute on the pitch, he seemed to do a decent job marking and controlling Pittsburgh’s best player, Kenardo Forbes. That seemed to be a point of emphasis, and de Vries executed it well.

      • Thank you for this information. This is essentially where I thought we were, a bunch of midfielders in the pipleline but nobody necessarily able to step into the lineup as an Aaronson replacement.

        Also regarding McGlynn, what do you think of his skill set? I have never seen him play but I have seen very conflicting descriptions of him, so I really don’t know what I might expect from him.

  4. In Tanner We Trust says:

    Really really happy for him. It’s a shame I won’t be able to go to another game this year to see him in person one last time. Will never forget him megging Guzan right in front of us. Let’s get a trophy before he leaves. Also this is a fantastic piece of business by the front office.

  5. You have to think with the Union in second place, 3 points behind in the race for both the conference place AND supporter’s shield that Tanner’s strategy of finding gems in the dark corner’s of Europe’s 2nd and third divisions plus pushing to more quickly integrate the young homegrowns is working. I’m left wondering what sort of value Fontana might have if he wasn’t taking up most of the space in Curtin’s Dog House. Also wondering when a legit offer for McKenzie might come in.

    Union really leading the way with making the most of MLS’s peculiarities.

    • When do we give Jim the benefit of the doubt regarding his doghouse? Trusty and Jones haven’t been lighting it up else where. Or was it Jim that stunted their career?

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        You can add Rosenberry to this list as well

      • This is a good point Mcb. I can’t point to any evidence of a player Curtin shunned proving him wrong. If it were simply a matter of these players having their development hampered or confidence shattered unfairly, you’d think one would eventually demonstrate faults on Curtin’s evaluations.

      • Rosenberry is getting minutes with Colorado, as is Jones with Nashville. Jones has 5 starts, 12 appearances and 568 minutes in 17 league games. Rosenberry has 12 starts in 12 appearances for 1007 minutes in 13 games.
        Trusty on the other hands three starts, five appearances, and 330 minutes.

      • I’ll give Jim the benefit of the doubt when he gives reasons for the player being in the doghouse. I’ll assume we all think that will never happen, thus Jim will never get the benefit. Fontana has 5 goals in 14 appearances. I don’t give a shit if he pulls it out in Jim’s face then pisses in Jim’s coffee, Fontana still needs to be on the field. Hope that answers your question.

      • Rosenberry is having a really good year – stunted only by the fact that Colorado can’t keep from avoiding covid (or plague infested groundhogs?).
        I would have no problem with him playing for us in his current form. He would be an upgrade over Mbaizo.

    • Concerning Fontana, let’s look at stats, I believe he leads the league in goals per minute. As a starter throughout his career, he’s scored every game he started, with the exception of Cincinnati. Including a free kick in the friendly v Pumas. I thinks it’s worth seeing if he’s the real deal, or just lucky every time he steps on the field.
      If he’s not the real deal, fine, time to look for a high profile CAM, otherwise he’ll be wasting away on the bench, with the exception of trash time at the end of games.

  6. Everyone is worried about how the Union will fill the void next season……Aaronson’s younger brother has been signed to a Home Grown Deal, as has Jack McGlynn. The Union have a pipeline of talent that is growing with each year.
    This is definitely a shot across the bow to those Euro Clubs looking for bargain prices on American Talent. If Celtic really want McKenzie they’ll need to increase their offer that’s for sure.
    CFG has to be pissed that Gio walked to Dortmund on a free…..

  7. Exciting. Show a pathway not just to the Pros but to Europe.

  8. Massive. Obviously sad to see him go, but this is a necessary step. And boy what a transfer fee!

  9. Gruncle Bob says:

    The terms are really solid for the Union. Good luck Brenden!

  10. Gruncle Bob says:

    The money (from

    – A club shall receive 100% of the corresponding transfer or loan fee revenue (including agent fees and other expenses) from any transaction involving a Homegrown Player.

    Usage of Revenue

    The club’s share of transfer or loan fee revenue may only be used as follows:

    The club may assign up to $1,000,000 of the transfer/loan revenue as General Allocation Money.

    The remaining balance of the club’s share (if any), and which cannot be traded, will be available for use by clubs in the following ways:

    – Against the expenses incurred by the club in relation to the costs of an existing or new Designated Player; or

    – With League approval, against an expense that (i) would not otherwise have been incurred by the club; and (ii) reasonably represents an investment in the League or club (e.g., youth development and training facilities).

    • John O'Donnell Jr says:

      One day soon the parking lot will be a complex and the training fields will be moved. I can imagine that down payment for it was just found to start the project.
      Meanwhile, we can enjoy the rest of the season as they compete for a trophy before he departs. I would imagine this might be the new operating procedure going forward as they sell players at the end of the season.I
      One more thing I would mention, thanks Ernie Stewart for strating the process of making this club more professional. That being said Ernst is so next level and the perfect fit for this franchise.

  11. ....el Pachyderm says:

    For all those who have visited this page arguing (often times with me) about: first team first team first team “all I really care about is first team”…. guess what- it’s about selling players. Always has been and always will be. At this level, the first team is a way station….It’s the business of real footy for almost every team in almost every league in the rest of the world. If you can find a way to do both, even betterdevelop and win a bit.
    Finally, due to circumstances beyond league control, the league has begun tacking in a different direction -now selling the narrative- We are a Selling League.
    Welcome to being relevant for the first time in years Union—grooming many many players that haven’t returned an investment… beyond becoming fine young men,and lowering the cap against.
    …At long last. I can personally actually sit back and breath a bit today. Let the gates open.
    Just the truth, from…..

  12. TIDY bit of business by Ernst and the FO.
    I’m looking forward to watching Brenden progress in Europe and excited to see what else this brings for our club in terms of scouting and selling.
    Can’t imagine McKenzie is long for us either.
    *fingers crossed*

  13. Good for the Union and Brenden. Glad they held out for a fee that matched their evaluation of the player. Good luck Brenden. May we see you in a national team kit soon.

  14. Glad I got tickets of the last 3 games (and hopefully more playoff games). Now I really will enjoy these games, paying particular attention to Brenden. Hope that he now will perform better (now that all has been announced). I think his performance in Orlando was much better than since they left that place.
    Hope that he will get to play in Champion’s League games!

  15. This is a bittersweet day for me and the Union knowing not too long ago sitting in town hall meetings with Earnie Stewart telling season ticket members to be patient and trust the Academy process,

    It is great to the Union Academy bearing fruit and a young man realizing his dream to play in Europe. But still sad to see a promising young talent leaving the Union and hope his replacement, be it from the Academy or a purchase with the transfer money, is at least equal to what we’re losing.

  16. From Salzburg’s perspective, the Aaronsen deal places fifth all-time (in nominal dollars) at the club. This ranks him above a certain Senegalese — by a full five places and a cool million-plus:
    … and now we know who, at the next alumni reunion of Chicago Fire players, is treating whom. So long, Brenden, and thanks for all the dishes + f’nishes!

  17. John O'Donnell Jr says:

    One day soon the parking lot will be a complex and the training fields will be moved. I can imagine that down payment for it was just found to start the project.
    Meanwhile, we can enjoy the rest of the season as they compete for a trophy before he departs. I would imagine this might be the new operating procedure going forward as they sell players at the end of the season.
    One more thing I would mention, thanks Ernie Stewart for strating the process of making this club more professional. That being said Ernst is so next level and the perfect fit for this franchise.

  18. This is what OUR front office said they would do! And here is the fruit of that initial seed! Could not be happier for Brendan,the Academy, and the U! I’ll wear my 22 Jersey the rest of this season!! I just hope I’ll be able to get a Salzburg Arrinson Jersey to commemorate the moment of our Football club became a supplier of players to the world! …just friggin awesome!

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