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MLS launches program to compensate non-MLS academy programs for role in developing pros



FC Delco, Sporting Athletic, Real Jersey FC and PA Classics have a chance to benefit from future MLS signings that come from their academy ranks thanks to a new program announced by Major League Soccer on Tuesday.

Under the new program, MLS Next Elite Academies (academy programs in MLS Next not run by MLS teams) will receive compensation when eligible players progress through the professional player pathway to signing a first team contract.

As part of the announcement, MLS announced 10 retroactive grants that are going to clubs that played in a role in the development of current MLS homegrown players. There aren’t any Philadelphia Union players among the 10.

A number of current MLS players played at local MLS Next clubs prior to MLS Next being established in 2020. Union teammates Matthew Real and Jeremy Rafanello both played at FC Delco as did Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Zack Steffen, DC United midfielder Russell Canouse and Minnesota United FC defender Zarek Valentin played at PA Classics. Goalkeeper Tomas Romero – who is reportedly signing with NYCFC – played at Real Jersey FC. Brenden Aaronson and Paxten Aaronson also played at Real Jersey FC prior to joining the Union Academy.

Several current Union players played for youth clubs that are now in MLS Next, including Jack McGlynn (BW Gottschee), Nathan Harriel (Chargers SC), Nick Pariano (Michigan Wolves), Isaiah LeFlore (Shattuck-St. Mary’s) and Alejandro Bedoya (Weston FC).

There are a number of other area clubs that have a history of developing future pros – Penn Fusion (current MLS players Keegan Rosenberry, Aiden McFadden, AJ Marcucci and Matt Freese), Philadelphia SC (Union homegrowns Quinn Sullivan and Brandan Craig) and Lower Merion (Nashville SC defender Daniel Lovitz). These clubs won’t benefit from this new program since they are not part of MLS Next.

Matthew Ralph is the managing editor of Philadelphia Soccer Now / Brotherly Game. He's covered soccer at all levels for many years in the Philadelphia region and has also written for, NPSL, PrepSoccer and other publications. He lives with his wife and two young children in Broomall, Pa., but grew up in South Jersey and is originally from Kansas.

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