The Philadelphia Union announced today that 15-year old Zach Pfeffer is its first home grown player signing in the franchise's history. Pfeffer (born January 6, 1995) becomes the fourth youngest player to sign a contract with an MLS team, behind Freddy Adu, Faud Ibrahim and Deigo Fagundez. He's the youngest player from the Philadelphia area to sign a professional contract with the MLS since Bobby Convey signed with DC United in 2000 at the age of 17.
His debut for the first team came during the Union's friendly with Chivas de Guadalajara (C.D. Guadalajara), which the Union won 1-0 on a Jack McInerney goal in the 48th minute, Pfeffer immediately became the youngest player to wear the Blue and Gold of the Union. Pfeffer would earn himself a two week trial with 1899 Hoffenheim of Bundesliga, the German top league, in November. Hoffenheim controlled first for a good portion of the first half of the 2008 Bundesliga season, though it is a team from a small town in southwestern Germany.
Dave Zeitlin, of MLSsoccer.com, tweeted the following about Pfeffer and what the coaching staff thinks of the young Pfeffer:
When I talked to Hackworth recently, he said Pfeffer could be one of the greatest college players ever but has sights set on being a pro.
As the first home grown signing for the Union, Pfeffer will most likely feature in the newly established MLS Reserve League. In 2006 the MLS added the Home Grown Player designation in order to increase investment in soccer academies and to encourage teams to raise their own talent outside of the MLS SuperDraft. All Home Grown players are exempt from the SuperDraft and are considered part of the team's MLS roster. For the 2011 season the MLS added six slots, out of an expanded 30 roster spots, that can be used on under-24-year old players. Any player used on this slot does not count against the team's salary cap and can play in both the reserve league and with the first team.
Pfeffer came through FC Delco and has represented the US at the U-14 and U-15 levels.