Philadelphia Union Academy midfielder Selmir Miscic got a taste of what life is like on the first team Saturday night and might have even played in the friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt if not for league rules prohibiting amateurs from playing in a gated exhibition match.
Miscic, a 15-year-old of Bosnian descent who moved along with his twin brother and teammate Arnel Miscic and family to Royersford, Pa. from Vermont to join the academy a couple years ago, did have a great view of the action from the bench.
During the first half, he was even able to share the bench with former Bosnian international Haris Medunjanin, who came on in the second half to replace Warren Creavalle.
“He was essentially a ball boy for the night,” Curtin said of Miscic, who scored 33 goals in 26 games in all competitions this season for the Union U15 team. “The experience of being around a team, sitting next to Haris Medunjanin and picking his brain is a special moment for a young kid. He is one that we are high on. He was a participant in our locker room moreso than on the field, unfortunately.”
League rules prohibit trialists and unpaid amateurs from playing in gated exhibition rules. At least they have since 2011 when it became part of the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the Player’s Union.
In order to play a player like Miscic, he would have to be paid which would then make him ineligible should he go on to play college soccer in the NCAA.
“There is NCAA stuff,” Curtin said. “Archaic, silly rules from the 1920s that still exist and prevent development.”
The USL allows amateur players to play alongside professionals prior to starting college and retain their NCAA eligibility.
One exception to the rule in MLS is preseason games that aren’t ticketed. Brenden Aaronson played in and scored a goal for the Union in a preseason match against the New York Red Bulls during preseason in Florida earlier this year.
The Union does have some history with snubbing rules governing trialists and amateurs.
In fact, the club was fined $15,000 for playing unsigned trialist Joe Tait in a friendly against the Harrisburg City Islanders in August 2011. This was after the league had issued a league-wide memo reminding teams of the rules after head coach Peter Novak played unsigned academy amateur Cristhian Hernandez in a friendly against Everton FC.
Miscic started training with Bethlehem Steel FC earlier this month, but has yet to make the 18 yet for Brendan Burke’s squad.