The Philadelphia Union have grown into a top team over the last few seasons and now European clubs are starting to take notice in its players.
Homegrown defender Mark McKenzie and midfielder Brenden Aaronson have rapidly developed into key first-team players for Jim Curtin’s side. Both players started every game in the recent MLS is Back Tournament for the Union, helping them reach the semifinals.
Scottish Premiership club Celtic along with several other European clubs have reportedly been interested in both players, with McKenzie getting the edge over Aaronson due to Neil Lennon’s need for defensive help. Union sporting director Ernst Tanner confirmed the interest from Celtic, but isn’t in any rush to transfer his young duo just yet.
“We have had interest.” Tanner said in an interview with the Daily Record. “There was a talk with Celtic, but I told them: We were not willing to talk before the [MLS in Back] tournament or during the tournament, but maybe then later on.”
“Will they come back? That is not in my obligation. That is up to Celtic. There is obviously a little bit of an interest, but there are so many players in the market at the moment. We have a situation where we don’t need to sell because we also have goals as a club.”
The Union are one of several MLS clubs that have given early chances to young players with McKenzie and Aaronson the latest to reap the rewards. McKenzie is in his third season with the first team while Aaronson broke onto the scene in 2019 before joining his teammate for their respective U.S. Men’s National Team senior debuts in January.
Both players helped the Union to a new club-record in regular season wins and points in 2019 while also leading them to a first-ever home playoff win last Fall. Tanner confirmed he wouldn’t stand in the way of his players’ dreams of playing abroad, but admits the goals of the club haven’t been reached yet despite continued overall success.
“We do not have a club policy (in terms of sales),” Tanner said. “But everyone has objectives. We have a competitive team in our league and that’s quite a strong argument for us. You know American players, in general. It is their dream to go to Europe and that is okay.”
“But, when you do a transfer, all sides have to come under one hat and that’s the critical point. I cannot speak for Celtic. I might think the interest (is serious), but as I said, there are so many players out there. It is not only Mark, but he’s an interesting asset. He is probably the most interesting prospect in our country in terms of defending. He is good.”
“There is interest from a lot of clubs and I have already been talking to some,” Tanner said. “We are the last ones who are hesitant in these situations, but it needs to be suitable for everyone.”
Celtic is two matches into the new Premiership season, but will now have to wait a few weeks due to having its latest matches postponed. The Scottish giants are going for a 10th-consecutive league title and will also take part in UEFA Champions League qualifying later this month.
As for the Union, they are back in Chester preparing for a return to regular season play. The Eastern Conference sides travels to face the New England Revolution on Aug. 21st, pending any changes don’t come from the league office.