The Pathway

Philadelphia Union midfielder Jack McGlynn has trophy aspirations | The Pathway

Developing and elevating young players isn’t lip service for the Philadelphia Union – it’s a way of life, a central part of the club’s identity.

That proof of concept drives midfielder Jack McGlynn, who’s now a locked-in starter for a perennial MLS Cup contender.

“The main decision of me coming to the Union was their trust in young guys,” McGlynn recently told “You see it with Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie that there’s a real pathway here to make it to the first team.”

McGlynn, who grew up in Queens, N.Y., joined the Union’s academy in 2019 and debuted for Philadelphia Union II the following year. In short order, he was elevated to a homegrown deal – a quick thinker who knew his decision before he received the ball.

From a young age, McGlynn’s vision and creativity were his calling cards. He leans on smarts instead of physical ability to make an impact.

“It was tough at first, but I think just keeping your head leveled through those moments and when you’re on the field showing what you can do,” the 20-year-old said about adjusting to the next level. “I know what I’m capable of every time I step on the field. Making the coaches aware of that as a young guy is the main thing you can do.”

McGlynn has accomplished that in spades and his playing time has gradually increased, now owning 3g/7a in 75 regular-season appearances. Just last year, he was rewarded with the No. 7 spot on the prestigious MLS 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list.

Family ties

When McGlynn thinks about his younger days in New York, eventually playing for MLS NEXT academy BW Gottschee, that’s where his love for the game was ignited. He used to dribble a mini soccer ball to and from school. He looked up to his older brother Conor, who now plays for USL Championship club Rhode Island FC.

McGlynn’s dad would make them both do extra training on the side before they even got to their club team practices. Those moments and preparation helped both go pro, albeit via alternate routes.

“To have an older brother who is as determined and talented, to have a dad who coaches every day and sacrificed so much for us, that is kind of what got me to where I am today,” McGlynn explained. “I owe it all to them, to be honest, because they helped me so much growing up.”

In a full-circle moment, the brothers played each other in 2020 when Conor was on Hartford Athletic and Jack was on Union II. Jack scored against his role model’s team and still ensures the memory lives on.

“Oh yeah, I never let him not hear about that,” McGlynn said while laughing. “I’m always telling him about that.”

High aspirations

McGlynn was part of the USA squad that won the 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship, made even sweeter by playing alongside friends from the Union.

Paxten Aaronson was the tournament MVP and top scorer with seven goals. Quinn Sullivan scored six himself, while Brandan Craig helped lead the backline.

“Me and Paxten have known each other since we were like 8 or 9 years old, and we’re kind of still making it through together, which is surreal,” McGlynn said of the now-Vitesse midfielder.

As part of US Olympic team training camps, McGlynn was recently surrounded by more of his peers, including Union teammate Nathan Harriel. They’re both strong candidates to play at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

“It’s always a special feeling when you’re able to represent your country on an international level. Being with the U23s and having a chance to go play in the Olympics – you look back and look at all the hard work you’ve put in,” McGlynn said.

Next level

It’s all part of the process, largely thanks to the system Philly have built. Not only is Jim Curtin one of the most respected head coaches in MLS, but his roots in the Union academy continue to help mold homegrown players’ journeys.

Everything nearly culminated in 2022 when the Union were minutes away from winning MLS Cup presented by Audi, only to concede a late extra-time goal to Gareth Bale and lose in penalty kicks to LAFC.

That hunt just keeps building the hunger in Philly, though.

“We haven’t won a trophy like we wanted to, but we’ve had a really good past couple of seasons,” said McGlynn. “The fans know we’re capable of it now and we demand that amongst ourselves to be one of the top teams in the league every year.”

McGlynn hopes to be an integral part of helping bring a trophy to Philly. His dream, as it is for many young players, is also to one day play in Europe. For now, everything is going according to plan.

“I’m happy with where I’m at now. I know there’s so much more I can do and want to do in the game, but I wouldn’t change anything,” McGlynn said. “I kind of went through what I needed to go through to mature and I think now it has paid off.

“Obviously the academy system is set up amazingly to kind of prepare you for the professional level. I know so many teammates of mine who had to go to college or didn’t make it. To be one of the ones that did, it’s a special feeling.”