There have been widespread reports suggesting European clubs are seriously scouting defender Mark McKenzie (per ESPN's Taylor Twellman) and midfielder Brenden Aaronson (MLSsoccer.com, Twellman, Bild and others) as the two have excelled through the club's first four games at the tournament.
For the Union, it's all part of the plan.
“The hype around our players is real," head coach Jim Curtin told reporters on a video conference call Tuesday. "It’s always flattering to have interest in your young players, it’s no secret that our model is to sell our first player to Europe. Keeping Brenden and Mark humble and hungry is the job of our entire technical staff. The talent is certainly there, and if they continue to play the way they do, I’m sure some concrete offers will come in for them.”
McKenzie, a 21-year-old US youth national team center back, has started all six Union matches of 2020. Curtin sees him as the perfect modern center back: technical on the ball and with athleticism to cover space and win aerial duels. Celtic is a club reported to be interested in his services.
“It’s always a blessing to draw interest from clubs in Europe," McKenzie said. "As a kid, you dream at playing at the top clubs in the world and the Champions League.”
As for Aaronson, the 19-year-old energetic attacking midfielder is receiving interest from more than a handful of Bundesliga clubs and, as MLSsoccer.com revealed, Celtic and an unnamed Belgian club.
The MLS is Back Tournament represents a great platform for these players to impress decision-makers abroad. With many of the European leagues either wrapped up or just finishing, it's plenty easy to get exposure in Orlando.
“There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of scouts around the world watching our league," Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes said. "Certain players and certain teams, Philly are one of them and I’m sure you’ve seen all the reports about Busio. It’s really easy to watch all these games. The United States is becoming more and more of a hotbed for young talent, that’s really good for our sport.”
Despite the media hype, Curtin isn't worried about keeping the pair focused on Philadelphia and the task at hand: Advancing to the semifinals of the MLS is Back Tournament.
“As of right now, they’re most focused on lifting a trophy here in Orlando," Curtin said. Philly face Sporting KC in a Round of 16 matchup on Thursday (8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN, TVAS).
“It’s great that there’s interest, it’s exciting, but I’m here to do my job for the club," McKenzie added. "I’m focused on helping the team and ultimately help Philly get this win.”