The wait for another homegrown player for the Philadelphia Union has ended, and unsurprisingly it’s a Bethlehem Steel FC central midfielder who has proven the viability of the club’s new development model.
The 19-year-old Ghana native made his first team debut on a short-term deal in a friendly with Crystal Palace FC, but will now be in line to make his Major League Soccer debut.
Jones was announced as the first signing to Bethlehem Steel FC in December 2015 after spending three seasons in the Philadelphia Union Academy. He has four goals and three assists in 18 games for the Steel this season and was recently named to the USL Team of the Week.
Jones becomes the first homegrown player signing since 2012 and the first since the Union Academy joined the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and launched YSC Academy, a private school attended by most of the players.
The three previous homegrown signings - Zach Pfeffer, Jimmy McLaughlin and Cristhian Hernandez - all participated in the Academy when it was more or less an all-star team of players from local youth club affiliates. Pfeffer and McLaughlin are both playing in the USL and Hernandez, whose signing in March 2012 violated league rules, was last seen playing in the NPSL with New York Cosmos B.
Jones emigrated from Ghana to Philadelphia right around the time of the last homegrown signing and joined local club Junior Lone Star. He was discovered by Philadelphia Union staff when he impressed in a friendly between Lone Star’s U19 team and the Union U18s. He joined the Union U16 team in 2013 and played one full season with the U18s in 2014-15 and the first half of the 2015-16 season.