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MLS Commissioner Don Garber pays a visit to YSC Academy

MLS Commissioner Don Garber toured the facilities at YSC Sports and talked with students at YSC Academy on Tuesday

Don Garber walks to YSC Academy with Daniel Bloyou (left) and Josue Monge (right) during a visit on March 7, 2017
Trey Madara

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber got a glimpse of the apparatus that is developing future stars for the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.

Garber toured the facilities at YSC Sports and then stopped over at YSC Academy to have lunch with a group of students before addressing the full student body in a town hall style meeting.

“We are trying to build this game from the bottom up and everyone should know that the Union are punching way above their weight and have been doing so for many, many years on the development side,” Garber told reporters while touring the training facilities at YSC Sports near King of Prussia. “It’s great to finally be here, actually see kids that are wearing the Union uniform and being trained at a high level and being part of a system that we hope will create the next generation of great American players.”

Garber, who has served as commissioner since 1999, got to watch goalkeepers Kristopher Shakes, Tomas Romero and Jahmali Waite train and a physical therapy session for U16 defender Benjamin Ofeimu. He was escorted across the street to the school by U18 midfielder Josue Monge and U16 forward Daniel Bloyou.

The timing of Garber’s visit was particularly fortuitous, given Derrick Jones’ performance in Sunday night’s season opener as the first player to go from the academy, to Bethlehem Steel FC to the first team starting lineup.

“I think we have a good reputation but it’s much more credible to get players to back it up,” Academy Director Tommy Smith said, noting that there are three or four players in negotiations now for professional contracts with the organization, which includes the USL club many older academy players are earning minutes with as amateurs.

After touring the school located in the office complex near YSC Sports, Garber had lunch with a smaller group of players - including recent Bethlehem Steel signing Matthew Real, Kalil ElMedkhar, Darius Lewis, Issa Rayyan, Frederick Gil, Romero and Waite - and then addressed the entire student body. In both sessions, he fielded questions from students about league expansion (max 28 in the foreseeable future), promotion and relegation (not happening) and the league’s partnership with USL (it’s strong).

“This is one of those great moments for me as the commissioner of Major League Soccer,” Garber told the students, which include players who compete for the Union and Continental FC in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. “I’ve not experienced anything like this before.”

Afterwards, Garber posed for selfies with many of the students, who he also visited with in their classrooms.

During his trip to the region, Garber also met with Union staff in Chester and met with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other team officials at City Hall.