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Union II sign Nelson Pierre as first MLS NEXT Pro player

Photos courtesy Philadelphia Union

On Tuesday, Philadelphia Union II announced the signing of YSC Academy player Nelson Pierre. The announcement comes 15 days before the player’s 17th birthday.

The announcement is historic because Pierre’s contract is held by the organization itself, not a single entity league. Having the individual MLS NEXT Pro clubs hold the contracts of their players is one of the experiments mentioned by the league’s president Charles Altchek when he was introduced earlier this spring.

Among the possible implications of the change might be different mechanics of club control over its younger professional players and different distributions of revenue realized from their sales. Time should offer further clarity.

More on Pierre

Pierre has been with the Union Academy since 2014. “Nelson has been with the academy since he was nine years old and has added strong technical qualities to the physical presence he’s had from a young age,” said Union director of academy and professional development Tommy Wilson in a press release. “I’m delighted that he will be the first Union II signing because his tireless work ethic makes him a role model for other young players. His future is very bright.”

The inaugural signing being an Academy player clearly reflects the homegrown player development philosophy expressed back in November of 2016, when Academy founder Richie Graham first introduced his school to the general public.

Under MLS rules, Pierre is technically not a Homegrown Player because he is not signed to the first team.

But he exemplifies the players Graham referenced who are to be found and nurtured within Philadelphia’s home market. There can be little doubt that the symbolic message of him being the first signing is intentional.

“At just 16 years old, Nelson is already an exciting young talent and he’s working every day to mature his game,” said Union II head coach Marlon LeBlanc.  “He brings natural, elite-level pace as a number nine and will continue to improve his off-the-ball movement and counter pressing coordination alongside another striker in our aggressive system.”

The announcement gave no details about the length of the contract.

Pierre appeared as a substitute in the only live-streamed first team preseason match, on February 3 against Cincinnati, wearing number 21. He looked just fine in the mix of the preseason scrimmage.

In addition to the pace referenced by LeBlanc, Pierre has always had good size. He is now 6’1″ and 180 lbs, an inch shorter and seven pounds less than Mikael Uhre.

Philadelphia Union II will play its inaugural MLS NEXT Pro match against FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday March 27 at Subaru Park at 2:00 p.m.. For further details, check the organization’s official website closer to the date.

One Comment

  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Do we know if the Union will be able to sign him as a homegrown in the future?

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