Philadelphia Union Academy defender Matthew Real has signed a professional contract with Bethlehem Steel FC.
The 17-year-old left back from Drexel Hill, Pa. previously committed to attend Wake Forest University this fall and is highly regarded by TopDrawerSoccer.com, which has him ranked 19th in the class of 2017 in its most recent Boys Academy IMG 150.
“Matthew proved last year that he can play at this level and is a guy that Jim Curtin and I have worked with since he was nine so it’s really cool seeing him showcase the process of the system we have in place,” Steel FC head coach Brendan Burke said in a news release. “He is really good on the ball and that jumps out when you see him play, he has a strong left foot to help balance out the team. He is a hardworking kid and never takes a play off and that is what we are looking for at Steel FC.”
Real has been a regular with U.S. youth international teams, traveling with the U18 squad for tournaments in Czech Republic, Argentina and Mexico last year.
He joined the Philadelphia Union Academy in 2013-14 after playing locally for Continental FC Delco and Lower Merion SC. He made 26 appearances for the U14 team in 2013-14, 19 appearances for the U16s in 2014-15 and 27 appearances for the U18 team over the past two seasons.
“I was really excited when I found out I was joining the Steel, for the reason that this is my hometown and I always wanted to be a part of this organization,” Real said in a news release. “The club gave me this opportunity to sign my first contract here and I’m excited. I will always want to give back to them for giving me this amazing chance.”
Real made two appearances for Bethlehem last season and played 84 minutes as an amateur. He also made the game day 18 in four other matches and scored for the team in a preseason friendly against Junior Lone Star, playing on the left wing as a second half substitute.
With the departure of Taylor Washington in the off-season, Real was already looking like the starting left back for Steel, while recent draft pick Aaron Jones appears to be a good candidate for the right back position and new acquisition Hugh Roberts will combine with a defender either from the first team or the Academy to form the back line.
Real becomes the third player to sign a professional contract with Bethlehem Steel FC out of the Union Academy. Derrick Jones was the first signing to the USL squad in December 2015 and signed a contract with the first team last summer while Yosef Samuel signed with the club at the end of last season. Auston Trusty signed a homegrown contract with the Union after playing as an amateur for Steel, forgoing his commitment to North Carolina.
Academy defender Mark McKenzie is also verbally committed to Wake Forest, which lost to Stanford on penalty kicks in the College Cup final in December.