TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Transfer
After a summer of rumors and reports, the Brenden Aaronson transfer is official: The Philadelphia Union have transferred their homegrown midfielder to FC Red Bull Salzburg with Aaronson joining the Austrian club in January 2021. He will remain with the Union through the end of the 2020 MLS season.
Aaronson is the Union's first academy product to be transferred abroad and the deal, which is the Union’s first outgoing European transfer, includes a multi-million-dollar transfer fee, as well as additional performance-based bonuses, for the highest ever transfer fee for a U.S.-based homegrown player. The Union will also retain a percentage of any future transfer fees for Aaronson.
The Medford, N.J, native who turns 20 years old on Oct. 22, broke into the Union first team in 2019 and has since become a fixture in the starting XI. He has started every one of Philly's 18 matches this year after making 25 starts as an 18-year-old last season. He has seven goals and seven assists in his MLS career.
“We are very proud of Brenden and what he has accomplished in such a short amount of time,” said Philadelphia Principal Owner Jay Sugarman in a statement. “Player development is one of the three core areas we want to excel at to build our club into a consistent winner and giving players a chance to continually challenge themselves is part of that ideology. Brenden’s success will inspire everyone involved in developing our young talent and will be just one of many success stories we expect to see out of our academy in the coming years. I wish Brenden the best at Red Bull Salzburg. I know he’ll always have Philadelphia and the Union in his heart and I look forward to seeing what his future holds.”
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A tenacious, hard-working attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, Aaronson has excelled at the tip of Philly's high-pressing 4-4-2 narrow diamond.
After representing US youth national teams at various levels, including the Under-23s, Aaronson received his first senior U.S. men's national team call-up in October 2019 and his first cap came in February 2020 against Costa Rica.
Months later, after stellar showings for the Union, Aaronson was linked to Scottish giants Celtic and Borussia Monchengladbach in Germany, where papers dubbed him the "U.S. Kai Havertz" after the Chelsea star.
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RB Salzburg is one of Austria's biggest clubs and they are coached by American Jesse Marsch. The former MLS player and New York Red Bulls manager guided Salzburg to their seventh consecutive league title last year, as well as their second consecutive Austrian Cup triumph. It was his first season in charge.
“This is an important next step for both Brenden, the organization, and United States soccer,” said Union sporting director Ernst Tanner. “This has always been the goal of the club. We want to establish a unique identity of developing young players through our academy with an end goal of cultivating and developing their talent to the level that allows them to compete against the very best in the world. We are incredibly proud that Brenden is leading the way as the first Philadelphia Union homegrown player to test himself against top European competition.”
A move to Salzburg could also see Aaronson take part in elite European competition. Marsch's side advanced to the group stage of the Champions League and were drawn against Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Lokomotiv Moscow. The group stage will be wrapped up before January. If Salzburg finish in the top two of their group, Aaronson will be with the team when they get to the tournament knockout rounds. If they finish third in their group, they'll instead head to the Europa League knockout round.
“Playing in Europe has always been a part of my dream. I’ve been able to accomplish the first part of my dream, to play for my home city, and am so excited for this continuation of my journey,” said Aaronson. “Before working towards a career overseas, my first goal was to play on the Philadelphia Union field. My family had tickets to the inaugural season, so I grew up watching the team from the very beginning and I remember hoping one day to be on that field scoring in front of the home crowd. I am so incredibly appreciative of all my coaches, my family, and the Philadelphia Union fans. Like I said, I was one of them once, and their support means everything to me. I’ll continue to give them everything I have through the end of the season and what I hope is a long playoff run. For me and for this club, this is just the beginning, and I look forward to what the future holds.”
There are plenty of connections between the two clubs as well. Union sporting director Ernst Tanner previously worked for RB Salzburg before joining Philly, while Marsch and Union head coach Jim Curtin played together at both Chivas USA and the Chicago Fire during their playing careers.
Salzburg have become one of the premier European clubs for identifying and developing young talent. The club has recently transferred the likes of Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), Takumi Minamino (Liverpool), Naby Keita (RB Leipzig) and Sadio Mane (Southampton) over recent seasons.