The Union are set to bring another of their top academy prospects into the professional ranks. According to sources with direct knowledge, 17-year-old midfield playmaker Brenden Aaronson has signed a pre-contract to join the senior team in Major League Soccer next year. The deal should be announced early next week.
Aaronson, who will turn 18 in October, is one of the best creators in the current crop of academy players. The Medford native started high school at Shawnee, then moved to the Union's high school in Wayne after his freshman year. He played six games for Bethlehem Steel last year, and has played 12 games this year. He'd have played more had he not broken his collarbone in late April.
In an interview with the Inquirer and Daily News last month, Steel coach Brendan Burke described Aaronson as "definitely one of the most creative midfielders — creative players in general — that I've seen come out of the academy."
It's no surprise Aaronson is joining the Union; that was just a matter of time. But he wasn't necessarily expected to make the move this soon. He had committed to a college scholarship at Indiana for the 2019 season and seemed headed toward honoring that commitment. Last month Aaronson said he still intended to go to college, but was talking things over with his family.
Now we have the answer, and it's likely to thrill the Union's front office.
Aaronson is the second Union academy product to sign a pro contract this month after 15-year-old forward Selmir Miscic made the jump to Bethlehem. His contract structure is similar to that of Newark, Del., native Anthony Fontana, who signed a pre-contract for the 2018 season last summer.
It's not inconceivable that some time next year, the Union could field an all-homegrown midfield trio of Aaronson, Fontana and Southwest Philadelphia-bred Derrick Jones. They won't all be starters; indeed, they'll probably all be backups behind bigger names. But they'll get their chances to play.
If all of the academy products currently on the Union's roster are still here next season, Aaronson would be the sixth homegrown player on the squad. That's no certainty, though, as European scouts are known to have their eye on Auston Trusty and others.