One of the biggest stories to follow this summer is the futures of Philadelphia Union rising stars Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie.
There have been plenty of reports detailing European interest in both players, while the club have been behind them every step of the way. Head coach Jim Curtin has said on numerous occasions that he'll enjoy each day he has working with them, because he doesn't think they'll be in MLS for too much longer.
“Long story short, Mark and Brenden are both ready to go to Europe," Curtin told media on a video conference call Tuesday. "It has to be the right offer, we’re not going to give them away because they’re great players. Ernst [Tanner, Philly sporting director] will make that decision.”
Aaronson, 19, and McKenzie, 21, were both named to the MLS is Back Tournament Best XI after stellar performances in Orlando to help lead the Union to the semifinal of the tournament. The pair are currently the shining examples for a burgeoning young academy, which continues to produce talent into the first team.
The club have signed a handful of Homegrown players this summer, and MLSsoccer.com reported last week that Brenden's younger brother Paxten Aaronson will be next. As the academy continues to produce talent ready for the first team, the club aren't shirking the international market for further additions to keep the squad rolling even as some of the brightest stars are sold.
“It’s important that we replenish (the squad) and we had a good meeting about it Thursday," Curtin said. "We have this constant influx of young talent that’s pushing and we’ll also have to add a piece or two from the international market.”
The Union are in the midst of their best period ever in MLS. The club won their first Audi MLS Cup Playoff match last season in thrilling fashion over the New York Red Bulls and set a new club record for points in back to back years. At the MLS is Back Tournament, they proved this year's squad may well be ready for new heights yet again in this truncated 2020 season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
All the while, The Union Way becomes more and more defined as the club continue to move up on and off the field.
“You’re starting to see the club with that engine behind us, the academy drives us and gives us solid pros on the field," Curtin said. "Next is to eventually sell them, I think that’ll be the case soon with Brenden and Mark.”