Analysis / Union

Anticipating 2025’s Union roster decisions

Photo PSP Archives

FIFA’s June international break concurrent with Europe’s summer transfer window indicates it is a good time to assess the Philadelphia Union’s upcoming roster decisions for the 2025 season.

 Three categories of decisions exist: free agents, club options, and anomalies. In free agent situations, the player is in control and has the final say, so if he is determined to leave, Philadelphia cannot stop him. FIFA allows such a player to sign a pre-agreement with a new club within six months of his contract’s expiration. Jonathan Tannenwald of the Inquirer has written that Feyenord of the Dutch League is in advanced talks with Julian Carranza about such a pre-agreement.

If the club holds an option, the club is in control if it accepts the terms of the option as set forth in the existing contract. Sometimes that has meant a significant salary raise. The club cannot change those terms without ending the contract and negotiating a new one. In the final years of Ilsinho’s playing career, denying his option but renegotiating his next season’s salary became an annual ritual.

Anomalies fit neither of the other two categories. For 2025, Philadelphia needs to showcase a player it is almost certainly trying to sell, loan, or otherwise send away. and it must decide whether to exercise a purchase option for a player on loan.

 Four free agents

As of June 1st four current Union players will be free agents at the end of the season.

Alejandro Bedoya, 37.1-years-old, will be a free agent at the end of the season. He was such at the end of 2023 and came back only after some communication snafus were resolved, a significant salary cut was negotiated, and a special roster category was approved by the league.

In 2024 Bedoya has occupied a “player professional development role.” Click here and scroll to the literal bottom of the summarized MLS Roster Rules and Regulations to find it. The specific details of his professional development responsibilities are unknown. If he retires at the end of the season, hopefully he will be added to the Ring of Honor, especially if he sets the record for appearances for the club.

Striker Julian Carranza will also be a free agent by the end of December. Tannenwald has written that convincing Argentina to include him for the World Cup in 2026 is among his reasons for leaving. There may be others. A detail unknown to PSP before MLS released its roster profiles May 1st is that he is eligible for an Italian passport as well as one from Argentina.

Carranza’s departure will illustrate emphatically that the Union is in transition away from Tanner 1.0 towards Tanner 2.0.

Left midfielder Leon Flach, 23.3, will also be a free agent after this season. His recent play as a single six illustrates that he is fully recovered from his surgically corrected sports hernia. His potential departure has been overshadowed by Carranza’s. Were Jack McGlynn to leave after the Olympics, Flach’s return would become especially important since the next left-foot shuttling midfielder in the pipeline is Union II professional and Academy junior CJ Olney, 17.5.

Finally, versatile center back Damion Lowe, 31.1, will be a free agent. He will return if 20.1-year-old Olwethu Makhanya is not ready to replace him, and if another club elsewhere has not decided that he is the perfect fit for their needs. Current loan-away Brandan Craig’s improvement will also affect any decisions about Lowe, as will on-going performances by Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes.

Given the Union’s transition into its next five-year cycle and Carranza’s determination to go, Leon Flach is the free agent most likely to receive significant incentives to stay.

Eleven options

Eleven other players have club-held options to return for 2025. In our opinion the four we discuss first will have those options exercised and the following seven will not.

  1. Center back Jack Elliott, 28.8, remains an effective starter, and he is the youngest of the three incumbent center backs. His option should be exercised. A new contract may be in negotiation.
  1. Center back Brandan Craig, 20.1, remains age appropriate to be part of the next five-year cycle, has played the system for years in the Academy, and has the offensive skills and the soccer IQ the system demands of a defender. We expect his option to be exercised to be the third of the three center back candidates who will replace Lowe, Glesnes, and Elliott.
  1. Striker/midfielder Quinn Sullivan, 20.2, is age appropriate, experienced in the system, and has improved as a striker. He has served as a first-team primary reserve both this year and last. His option will be exercised.
  1. Although there has never been any confirmation of our surmises, it seems as though left back Isaiah LeFlore must have suffered his knee injury almost immediately back in January. He has had no chance whatsoever to be evaluated playing in the Union’s system. Whatever the scouts saw in him has never had a chance to be examined in person on the pitch. In comparable situations, the organization has been fair to the player and extended him a meaningful chance. Leflore’s salary is the reserve roster minimum, so bringing him back will not break the bank.
  1. Striker Mikael Uhre, 29.7, has not been as effective in 2023 and 2024 as he was upon arrival in 2022. He is not age appropriate to the next five-year cycle. He does not seem able to carry the attack effectively as its primary leader when Carranza and Gazdag are absent. He blocks the younger strikers like Markus Anderson and – we presume – Jose Riasco from the developmental minutes they need to grow, to say nothing of the Union II and U17 players.
  1. Attacker Jeremy Rafanello, 24.1, has been thoroughly professional as a squad player providing options for depth and practice, including a remarkable performance out of position as a defensive midfielder in Portland earlier this year. But he blocks both David Vazquez and Cavan Sullivan. His option will be exercised only if they still need more time with Union II and in the weight room.
  1. Goalkeeper Holden Trent, 24.9, is now the fourth keeper signed to the first team. Never before have they carried four. Once he is restored to full health and Andre Blake returns to play we expect him to move elsewhere. It is only fair to him to let him find a place to play. His option will not be exercised for 2025.
  1. Right back Olivier Mbaizo, 26.8, has reached his ceiling and will have his option exercised as a stopgap only if both Frank Westfield and Jamir Berdecio are not signed for 2025. Either one would replace him on the depth chart. WE do not expect Nathan Harriel to move on after the Olympics.
  1. Left back Matt Real, 24.9, seems to be finding his niche as a USL Championship player. His age is not appropriate to the Union’s next five-year cycle and he seems to have demonstrated his ceiling. His option will not be exercised.
  1. Midfielder Richard Odada, 23.5, lost out last year to Jesus Bueno in the competition to earn a reserve midfielder role. He has been on loan to Danish side Alborg, who have announced they will not exercise his purchase option. We do not expect the Union to bring him back for the summer or to exercise the option they hold on him for 2025.
  1. Attacker Joaquin Torres, 27.3, was showcased in preseason and loaned to Universidad Catolica in Chile’s top division with a purchase option. He could not defend effectively in the Union’s system as a midfielder or a striker. He was too easily knocked off the ball. His option for 2025 will not be exercised.
Two anomalous situations

Striker Tai Baribo, 26.4, is the Union’s fourth reserve striker. He has begun getting game minutes as a substitute but has not yet shown himself productive offensively in the Union’s system. He is the Union’s third most expensive striker but is sixth on the current depth chart. His age, his salary, and his lack of production all suggest he should showcase himself with an eye to finding his next club. Markus Anderson, Chris Donovan, and Quinn Sullivan – to say nothing of the assumed Jose Riasco – are younger and more effective. Should he not be sold or loaned out, his option for 2025 will not be exercised.

Right back Jamir Berdecio, 21.8, is on loan for 2024 with an option to buy. He just earned his first cap for Bolivia’s national team as a late substitute in the midfield against Mexico in Chicago. His aggressiveness fits the Union’s preferred mindset, and he is both pacey and quick. He is beginning to reduce his defensive mistakes as his “engine building” improves. Practicing everyday with the first team seems to be nurturing growth. MLS’s recently issued roster profile document lists him as having a roster option for 2028, but does not indicate explicitly what his contract status would be for 2025, 2026, and 2027 should his purchase option be exercised at the end of his loan.

Until he received Bolivia’s call up Berdecio has missed only one Union II match. He is part of the defense that is gaining experience towards replacing that of the current first team. If recent improvements in consistency, conditioning, and mistake avoiding continue his contract may be bought and he may return for 2025.


  1. Please improve the first team or sink lower in the table and lose fans….

    If they cant resign Caranaza they must replace him immediately. No Projects. Forward is the 1st teams greatest need.

    Its time for Martinez to leave if they get a great offer. Flach is not as flashy but he is level headed.

    Time for Craig to put in back line asap.

    Bedoya is a great locker room presence and valuable sub got to keep him int the organization..

    Sullivan is only going to get better. Same with Mc Glynn.

    Lets not just patch holes Management. We the fans are tired of selling off young prospects and getting jack squat to improve the first team. Blake and others must feel the same way.

  2. Tony Messina says:

    Absolutely as a season ticket holder and former coach do not agree with the last part about Martinez , Flach would sit my bench on my u-19 team . He plays hard but is totally unaware what to do with ball after winning it and the amount of giveaways are unbelievable ! He spends more time watching than any player on the team .

    • Martinez is a defensive force, but prone to giving the ball back – often and in bad places. Flamboyant but inconsistent. Flach is a lockdown defensive player. Given a defense that is suddenly very leaky, I would take Flach either with Martinez at this time or instead of him..

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Flach was a key if unsung member of the 2022 team. He’s a LOT better than you are giving him credit for.

      • I thought I was giving him credit for his defensive strengths. I don’t see the offensive leaning yet, but maybe you do

      • Andy Muenz says:

        CB, I was actually replying to Tony’s comment about Flach not being good enough for an under 19 team. And while his offense isn’t great, his tendency to make the safer pass also means he’s less likely to turn the ball over than Martinez is. Like so many other things, it’s there’s a trade off between options.

    • I disagre Flach is not going to make the spectacular pass or contribute to the offense too much, but I have seen too much of Martinez carrying the ball deeper into the final third and turning it over. I like Martinez ability to cover and intimidate but over the last few seasons I see him becoming more of a liabilty with bad fouls. He does have high trade value . The secondary point that I was making is we can get another team to make us a great offer and there is a forward that would truly improve the team go for it. I would also love to see us get Dax Mc Carty as a bench player.

      • McCarty is cooked… and not “Tanner 2.0 Five Year Plan” age appropriate.

        … and if you’re expecting anything more than what has happened to date (like signing a Top 10 striker), your expectations are out of wack. This year is what we can expect for the next 5 years… the system is in place to finally make money with the Union, so Sugarman buys another team rather than invest in a Top 10 striker.


  3. Well 15 year season ticket holder, best of luck going forward union, my last season. Union management decisions are mysterious

  4. Even the blind squirell finds an acorn once in a while. The Union are going to have get lucky and use incite to find a replacement for Caranza. Just like they did when they acquired him originally. The Eagles don’t always draft well but once in a while a Jordan Mailota lands int their lap. Tanner is going to have to pull a rabbit out of his hat. I have no faith that Sugarman will spend real money on a solid proven forward. I am not delusional just hopeful we can catch a break.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *