Zach Pfeffer was a season- ticket holder during the Union's first Major League Soccer season. In the second, he won't need to be purchasing those tickets.
Pfeffer, a Dresher resident who will turn 16 on Jan. 6, was signed Wednesday by the Union as the team's first "homegrown" player. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
"We're very excited, and it is definitely a big surprise when it first came about, and I am thrilled it happened, and everything is now complete," Pfeffer said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.
Pfeffer became the first player to join the Union from the MLS Homegrown Player initiative, a program started in 2006 to increase opportunities for local players.
MLS teams may sign players from their respective youth development programs without subjecting them to the MLS SuperDraft. Pfeffer is the fourth-youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract.
A sophomore at Upper Dublin High, the 5-foot-71/2, 140-pound midfielder was a member of the Union's under-17 team that competed in the MLS under-17 SUM Cup in Houston in July. He began training regularly with the Union later in the summer, an experience that continued his development.
"It goes without saying we think Zach has a ton of potential, and if we can do a good job of providing the proper atmosphere he will be an excellent pro some day," Union assistant coach John Hackworth said Wednesday in a phone interview.
When the Union is training, Pfeffer attends two classes in the morning, chemistry and geometry. He then trains with the Union before going home and taking four other classes online.
"It's definitely not a normal 15-year-old teen's life, but I have handled everything well," Pfeffer said. "It's really not too overwhelming."
Before being affiliated with the Union, Pfeffer competed for the under-14 and under-15 national teams. He also competed at the highest club level for FC Delco Academy.
"He has great agility, foot speed, is very good on the ball and makes great decisions," Hackworth said. "And he is much more mature than the typical 15-year-old."
It was a big decision deciding to bypass competing in college, but Margie Pfeffer, his mother, said her son would continue his education after high school whether it's taking night courses or courses online.
His mother is a driving force. She is the one who drives him to practices and has been more than happy to help in this unique setup.
"I wouldn't call it so much a sacrifice but a pleasure to watch him," Margie Pfeffer said. "I'm very appreciative seeing my child's dream come true."
Notes. The Union has yet to announce the signing of Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon of FC Koln (Cologne, Germany), but a person familiar with the proceedings said an announcement could be forthcoming. It was first reported by the German magazine Kicker that the 39-year-old keeper has agreed to terms with the Union.