LouCity announced on Thursday its seven-figure transfer agreement sending Wynder, 18, to the winningest club in Portugal's top-flight Primeira Liga this summer — the largest fee for a USL player in league history.
The deal was completed in March, according to a report from Pro Soccer Wire. On Thursday, ESPN reported it's worth $1.2 million, plus potential add-ons, and also includes a sell-on clause that would give LouCity 20% of any future transfer fee for Wynder out of Benfica if the Portuguese club does not pay $500,000 before the end of 2025.
"I'm very grateful to Louisville City for everything the club has done for me," Wynder said in a statement from the club. "It's a dream come true to sign with Benfica, and I can't wait to get started there. Although my career's taking me overseas, I'll always be proud of where I'm from and represent Louisville to the best of my ability."
Wynder said he plans to set out for Portugal in about three weeks. He cannot formally register as a Benfica player until the transfer window opens July 1. LouCity has three USL matches and an international friendly against German club FC Kaiserslautern remaining on its June docket, but coach Danny Cruz said the defender will not suit up for those contests as he prepares begin competing with Benfica's reserve squad in the second-division Liga Portugal 2.
"They know it (will) take a while to get integrated," Wynder said Thursday of his new club. "But after that, they think I can develop quickly and become a big player for them."
Wynder to Benfica: Louisville City defender completes $1.5m transfer with Portuguese club
After honing his skills in LouCity's youth academy program, Wynder signed a professional contract with the club in June of 2021 at 16 years old and made his pro debut six weeks later. He became a mainstay on the back line, starting 30 of his 38 appearances across three seasons in the USL, and was a finalist for U.S. Soccer’s 2022 Young Male Player of the Year award.
Less than a month after Pro Soccer Wire reported Wynder's move to Benfica had been finalized, he was called up to the U.S. Men's National Team for the first time ahead of an April 19 friendly against Mexico. In May, he became the first Kentuckian to play for the USMNT in a World Cup, helping lead the Americans to the quarterfinal round of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina, and appeared on the country's preliminary senior team roster for this summer's Concacaf Gold Cup.
"This is a proud moment for Louisville City, our youth academy and our community," Cruz said in a statement from the club. "We are going to miss seeing Josh in the locker room each day, but I could not be more proud of the path that he is on in his career. The type of person he is continues to stand out to me, and we look forward to watching him reach new heights to also become the best player he can be.
"We at Louisville City are committed to the progression of our academy players into the first team while maintaining the highest standard of winning. When I look at the alignment we have from ownership throughout the entire club, I firmly believe that we will continue to see talented young players emerge here."
Wynder's brother Elijah, a midfielder, signed LouCity's first academy contract in April of 2019 at age 16. After winning the USL's Comeback Player of the Year award in 2022, the elder Wynder inked a contract extension with the club through the 2024 season.
Benfica calls Portugal's capital, Lisbon, home. The club won a record 38th Primeira Liga title in May, going 28-3-3 (87 points) and allowing just 20 goals across 34 matches during the 2022-23 season. It is second to only Spanish juggernaut Real Madrid in UEFA Champions League appearances and reached the tournament's quarterfinal round this year.
Pro Soccer Wire in February reported AS Monaco of France's Ligue 1 and FC Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian Bundesliga were also among the clubs courting Wynder, who said he has visited Lisbon several times and in January worked out for Benfica during a trial period. He walked away impressed with the Portuguese city, the club, its coaches and facilities, saying "it all just fit in perfect."
Before LouCity's deal with Benfica for Wydner, the USL's previous record-high transfer was Hadji Barry’s move to the Egyptian Premier League's Future FC from Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in October of 2022. Though the specifics of Barry's deal were not disclosed, the USL confirmed it was larger than Kobi Henry’s transfer fee that sent him from Orange County SC to Reims for a reported $700,000 in June of 2022.
Reach Louisville men's basketball reporter Brooks Holton at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @brooksHolton.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: LouCity FC's Josh Wynder to S.L. Benfica in record-breaking transfer