Defender Mark McKenzie is returning home from North Carolina, opting to leave Wake Forest to become the eighth homegrown player to sign with the Philadelphia Union.
McKenzie decided to go to Wake Forest last fall after turning down a USL offer from the Steel while also weighing offers from overseas. He made six appearances for Steel in 2017, two the year prior. He’s also represented the United States at various youth camps, most recently at the first ever Youth National Team Summit in Florida.
The 18-year-old from Bear, Delaware was named to the Best XI in the East in the Development Academy last July.
“We’re delighted to have Mark begin his professional career by joining us as a Homegrown Player this season,” Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart said in a news release. “Mark is a promising centerback who made an impact for Wake Forest last year, a very good team at the collegiate level. It’s special any time you sign a Homegrown, and Mark is no exception. In this case, he made a difficult decision to leave school to sign with us, and we don’t take that lightly. We look forward to helping him with his development as he takes the next step with the Union.”
Playing time at Wake Forest was hard to come by McKenzie’s freshman year. He didn’t make his first start until the ACC semifinal on November 8 after senior center back Kevin Politz, who just recently signed a homegrown deal with the New York Red Bulls, went down with an injury.
McKenzie is just the second Union homegrown to play in college and the first to go through the Philadelphia Union Academy to Bethlehem Steel FC to first team pathway while also playing a season of college soccer.
Jimmy McLaughlin spent a season at Colgate before becoming the second homegrown signing by the Union in 2011. The Malvern native, along with Zach Pfeffer and Cristhian Hernandez were part of the Union youth setup as members of youth affiliate clubs.