Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin noted during his weekly press conference on Wednesday how much younger the squad has gotten during his tenure as head coach.
“My math might be off by a little bit but I think we’ve come down almost three years in our team’s age, which is a significant drop, for sure, but that’s what we are,” he said.
Curtin wasn’t wrong — this squad is nearly three years younger than the one he coached his first full season in 2015 — but believe it or not it’s still not the youngest overall based on average age in team history.
That distinction for the time being still goes to the 2012 team, which had an average age of 22.72 at the beginning of March.
The squad is currently at an average of 23.8 without counting out of contract veterans Joe Bendik and Aurelien Collin, whose status has still not been announced. The average age with them is 24.4, which would be the fifth youngest to start the season in team history.
One big difference between the current squad and the one in 2012, however, is the number of teenagers.
There are 7 on the roster right now (Jack de Vries, Cole Turner, Nathan Harriel, Paxten Aaronson, Jack McGlynn, Brandan Craig and Quinn Sullivan), where there were four on the team in 2012 (Jimmy McLaughlin, Jack McInerney, Zach Pfeffer and Cristhian Hernandez).
Veterans like Ilsinho (35), Alejandro Bedoya (33), Ray Gaddis (31) and Andre Blake (30) skew the average. The 2012 team only had two players in their 30s at the start of the season, 33-year-old Chris Albright and 30-year-old Brian Carroll.
There were 10 players ages 20-22 on that team in 2012 to just four on the current squad in that age range (Matt Freese, Anthony Fontana, Matthew Real and Matej Oravec).
What will be interesting to watch is how many minutes this year’s crop of teenagers get. McInerney was the only teenager on that 2012 team that saw significant time (1,630 minutes). Brenden Aaronson was the only teenager on the Union to see significant minutes last season (1,914 minutes in league matches).
Still, minutes don’t always tell the story since so much of the work of development occurs in training and the fact that the Union is shifting younger in their introduction of players to the first team means the potential for earlier impact and continued success for the pipeline.
Where the average age rose steadily for the Union after that 2012 season (it also rose within the season with the addition of Michael Lahoud, Bakary Soumaré, Danny Cruz and Jorge Perlaza), it doesn’t appear to be heading anywhere but down in the foreseeable future. The roster next year could very well include a 15-year-old or two to bring the average down along with the possible retirement of Ilsinho.
There’s also a high likelihood the team will be touting a new record for youngest average starting XI in team history this season and will have much more to show on the field than finishing eighth place in the Eastern Conference and losing at home in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal. The previous mark for lowest average age was set in 2012 with a 23.4 average, according to data on Transfermarkt.
Note: Squad averages do not include players acquired after the start of the season and are based on the ages of players on March 3 of each year.
UPDATE: This article was written and published prior to Ray Gaddis announcing his retirement. With him no longer in the squad the average age is now 23.5 without Collin and Bendik and 24.19 with them.