It's rare that something meaningful happens with fewer than 10 minutes remaining in a soccer friendly. Yet, two weeks ago, something meaningful really did happen in the waning moments of Philadelphia Union's 1-0 win over Mexican power Chivas Guadalajara: Philadelphia Union introduced the youngest player in club history, and one of the youngest in MLS history.
As reported by Philly.com, the Philadelphia Union brought 15-year-old Zach Pfeffer off the bench in the team's friendly matchup against the original Chivas. A 10th grader at Upper Dublin High School in rural Philadelphia, Pfeffer entered the game with just less than eight minutes of regulation remaining, officially starting a professional career that could help open MLS doors to other budding American prospects.
"I didn't expect it at all," Pfeffer told Philly.com. "The game was on a Wednesday. So that Tuesday morning, we had a light session, and at the end of the session, [Union manager Peter Nowak] brought all of the players in, and out of nowhere he just said, 'I think everyone's going to play, and I think we're going to get Zach some minutes, too.'
"So it was a surprise, but I was pretty excited and obviously a little nervous, too."
At just 15, Pfeffer is easily one of the youngest players to appear for an MLS franchise's first team, and could possibly be the second youngest, behind erstwhile American phenom Freddy Adu, who debuted for D.C. United just months shy of his 15th birthday. Given Pfeffer's dramatic rise through the organization's youth program, it might not be long before he's appearing for the Union's first team regularly.
A member of the U-14 and U-15 national teams, Pfeffer only started training with the Union's new youth academy in May, but impressed enough at a summer U-17 tournament to earn a call up to practice with the first team. After Pfeffer proved he belonged with the Union first team, he decided to go all-in, adjusting his school schedule to take only a pair of classes each day in the morning before Union practices begin (he's taking the majority of his classes online so he can graduate on time). Then, the teenager travels to PPL Park to participate in all of the team's workouts.