Roster News / Union

Union sign former Academy midfielder Jeremy Rafanello

Photo: Stephen Speer

Late Tuesday morning, Philadelphia Union announced they had signed former Academy player Jeremy Rafanello as a Homegrown player.

His contract is for the rest of 2022, all of 2023, and has options for 2024 and 2025.

Rafanello, a Delran, N.J. native, is eligible as a Homegrown signing because he graduated from YSC Academy in 2018, having had two cameos with Bethlehem Steel FC that summer. He played two summers for Reading United before and while attending Penn State. After a season in State College, he signed a professional contract with FC Helsingor in Denmark, moving the next season to Indy Eleven of the USL championship.

From March of 2021 he was with New York Red Bull II, where so far in 2022 he was second on the team in goals scored with three, played over 1500 minutes, and had 17 starts and one substitute’s appearance out of 25 matches.

Rafanello was a striker when at Union academy, and is listed as a forward for Red Bull II on its USLC roster. However in the Union’s announcement he is described not as a striker but as a midfielder, and attacking midfielder is how Transfermarkt lists him.

“We are very excited to bring Jeremy home to the Union. He was a standout in our academy and after developing his game both locally and abroad, we are confident he can contribute to multiple roles in our system,” Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said in a press release.

“He clearly has the mentality we look for in young players and is yet another example of the strong talent we continue to foster in our academy.”

Rafanello is 22 years old, a second chronological anomaly in a Tanner signing this season. The reference to “multiple roles” reinforces the official descriptor of midfielder.

The comments about “mentality” and the Academy continuing to foster strong talent add further elements of curiosity to the signing.

By memory, Rafanello may be the first Academy player who did not earn a Homegrown contract while enrolled to earn one based on his subsequent development as a player away from the organization.

The signing is not an identity-changing development for the current MLS Eastern Conference leaders. It will be interesting going forward to see how quickly Rafanello makes a match pitch, for which team, and at what position(s). Logic makes Union II an obvious guess, but no evidence yet lends that logic any credence.


  1. John P. O'Donnell says:

    This signing seems to have upset a few Red Bulls fans. Interesting it came on the same day as MLS changed homegrown territory rules. Seems like another move by Tanner playing three dimensional chess again.

    • Clever move, for sure.
      Talent, development and future contribution aside, if RBNY had plans for him, wants him back and Union is willing to part for a price, Union would get a fast profit for a transfer-free signing.
      Setting those comments aside… Welcome to Philly, Jeremy!

    • in the entire organization, the player that I would hate most to lose is Tanner!

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Looks like he is not available for tonight’s Union II game (along with most of the other first teamers except Craig, Sorenson, and Turner).

  3. At age 22, I doubt he’d stay with Union II for long. The Union don’t sign players at that age as prospects, they sign them as first team contributors.

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