The Union promoted two more academy products to their senior team on Thursday, signing 16-year-old midfielders Brandan Craig and Quinn Sullivan to MLS contracts that will start next season.

Both players were born and raised in the Philadelphia area. Craig, a Wayne native, played for Union academy teams from the under-12 to under-19 age groups, and this year made 14 appearances for the USL team. He has also played for the U.S. under-15 national team, including at an international tournament in Italy last year. His father Andrew, an England native, played at Temple and was the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year in 1993.

Sullivan grew up in Philadelphia’s Bridesburg section, and took the same path from Union youth teams to a USL debut this year. He is the first academy product born in the city to make it to the senior team.

He also has deep family bloodlines in the local soccer scene.

Start with grandfather Larry Sullivan, who played college soccer at Temple and went on to be Villanova’s head coach from 1991 to 2007. Larry’s son, Brendan Sullivan, played at Penn, where he met his future wife, Heike, who captained Penn’s women’s team in 1994 and ’95. Brendan Sullivan went on to play pro soccer for some U.S. minor league teams.

After hanging up his cleats, Brendan Sullivan joined his father’s staff at Villanova in 2000. That happened to be Jim Curtin’s senior year with the Wildcats.

Quinn Sullivan (top) played for a Union youth academy team against a New England Revolution youth academy team last year.
Matt Ralph
Quinn Sullivan (top) played for a Union youth academy team against a New England Revolution youth academy team last year.

Heike Sullivan, meanwhile, became a lawyer at Ballard Spahr, where she has worked with former U.S. women’s national team players' union attorney John Langel.

Quinn Sullivan is also a cousin of Union technical director Chris Albright.

“It feels surreal to be taking pictures with him holding up the Sullivan name,” Curtin said in a statement.

The players’ families know each other well. Quinn and Brandan were teammates at Fishtown Athletic Club in 2011, and their fathers have coached together. When Brendan led the boys' soccer team at Germantown Academy in 2017, he had Andrew on his staff.

As with many of the Union academy’s top prospects, there was significant foreign interest in Craig and Sullivan. A source with knowledge of the deals said they were scouted by clubs from England’s Premier League and Germany’s Bundesliga. And because they both have European passports, they could have left the Union before turning 18, FIFA’s minimum age for clubs signing foreign nationals.

While it may seem unusual for non-soccer fans to see 16-year-olds sign pro sports deals, it’s increasingly common in MLS, and will likely only become more so in the future.

“These are two young, promising players who have fit in well with our system at every level of their development,” Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said in a statement. “Brandan has a strong set piece delivery and impressive passing range for his age. Quinn is strong in the tackle, covers an incredible amount of ground, and has the precise type of tenacious attitude we want in our squad.”

Brandan Craig (left) and Quinn Sullivan hold Union jerseys after signing their contracts.
Philadelphia Union
Brandan Craig (left) and Quinn Sullivan hold Union jerseys after signing their contracts.