Mark McKenzie is coming off his best MLS season yet for the Philadelphia Union and that could propel him to a move abroad this January.
McKenzie has been on the radar of Scottish Premiership side Celtic for most of 2020 and the defending champions look set to chase the defender’s services once again in the coming weeks. Although McKenzie is only 21-years-old, it hasn’t stopped him from becoming a rising talent among MLS defenders and U.S. Men’s National Team centerback options.
With the Glasgow-based club being linked to his name all year, McKenzie made sure to become familiar with his potential future employer.
“I’ve done my fair share of research [on Celtic and the Scottish Premiership] and I’ve always loved football so I’ve known about Celtic for a while,” McKenzie said in an interview with Sky Sports. “You hear about Celtic and the path of Virgil Van Dijk — going from there to the Prem.”
Celtic was in the mix for McKenzie earlier this summer, but decided on signing former Brighton & Hove Albion defender Shane Duffy instead of the American. Since then, McKenzie finished as a finalist for the MLS Defender of the Year award and also lifted the Supporters’ Shield with the Union, before closing out his schedule by making his first start for the USMNT earlier this December.
McKenzie has also watched his Union teammate, Brenden Aaronson, earn a move to Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg this January while many of his international teammates are currently excelling for some of the top European clubs this year.
McKenzie may still be under contract with the Union for now, but his goals of moving across the Atlantic Ocean still remain very high on his list.
“It’s out there — my goal is to play in the Champions League, play against the best players in the world, win trophies,” McKenzie said. “That’s my goal and those are my personal ambitions. Obviously right now I’m still a Union player but I hope in the near future that I find myself in the situation where I can make the jump and put myself forward in those important matches.”
“In order to grow your game and diversify your skillset you need to be able to play and compete with the best of the best and getting regular minutes. It’s difficult to come in and play here and there. You need regular football.”
Celtic’s quest for a record 10th-consecutive league title is in jeopardy with Neil Lennon’s side currently 13 points back of Old Firm rivals Rangers, despite having two matches in hand.