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Jared Martinez & Matt Stith

Mark McKenzie: My goal is to play Champions League soccer one day

Philadelphia Union center back Mark McKenzie is aiming high when it comes to his club soccer aspirations.

A Homegrown Player with one US men’s national team cap, he confidently stated on the latest Extratime episode that he wants to play in Champions League matches. A record 10 USMNT players are rostered for UEFA’s flagship club competition this year, and the 21-year-old eventually wants in.

“Ultimately it’s about the personal experience, I think, so the only way for me to understand it fully is to be over there and to compete,” McKenzie said. “Whichever club that is, I think it’s going to be the experience of a lifetime, but I have aspirations to play at the highest level, to play Champions League football. I think that’s as simple as it is.”

Watch: McKenzie on his European soccer aspirations

McKenzie, who just took home AT&T Goal of the Week honors after his first professional strike, addressed where that could be. There were links to Scottish Premiership side Celtic earlier this summer, though a move didn’t materialize.

Wherever McKenzie lands, he’d follow in the footsteps of fellow Philly youth product Brenden Aaronson. The 20-year-old midfielder was officially transferred to RB Leipzig on Friday, and is slated to join the Austrian club in January 2021.

“Ultimately, a ball-playing league is a league that I want to be part of,” McKenzie said. “I think that, again, that’s where you’re going to be tested and I can’t say what the future holds right now, but ultimately I do see myself playing against, again, these world-class 9s, these world-class 10s, these world-class 7s and 11s who are going to put me under pressure, both defensively and with the ball. But having the capabilities to know that I can play and compete against them is something I’m looking forward to and it’s something that is pushing me day in and day out.”

Should McKenzie move to Europe, he’d join FC Barcelona’s Sergino Dest and Bayern Munich's Chris Richards as young American defenders carving their path overseas. They all featured on the US U-20 FIFA World Cup team in 2019, when the Tab Ramos-led group reached the quarterfinals.

There’s more on McKenzie’s mind than soccer, though. He also addressed the importance of voting in the 2020 presidential election, and remaining an engaged citizen beyond that decision. Check out McKenzie’s thoughts below, and view more resources at the MLS Unites to Vote landing page.

Watch: McKenzie on the importance of voting

“It’s something new for me, but I’ve heard it all throughout my life how important it is to vote,” McKenzie said. “We see in the last election how many millions of people not voting, one either because you don’t feel like it or you don’t feel like your vote counts or whatever the excuse may be. But at the end of the day, this is something that we all need to step up and take hold of because we see how much it can affect the country in the grand scheme of things. 

“But not only at the presidential level, we look at the local level and who we put in office for our state representatives. These are the individuals who we want to represent us, to speak for us and if we don’t have those in office who are going to do that, then we’re going to find ourselves in a deeper hole than we ever anticipated."

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MLS Unites to VOTE

Join Major League Soccer, Black Players for Change, and the MLS Players Association in participating in the November 3 general election. In-person early voting has started in 45 states. Make a plan to vote.