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Union Academy grad signs with FC Helsingør in Denmark

Delran, N.J. native Jeremy Rafanello spent a season at Penn State after scoring 43 goals in two seasons in the U.S. Development Academy

Photo by Matt Ralph

Philadelphia Union Academy grad Jeremy Rafanello is heading to Denmark to start his professional career for second division club FC Helsingør.

The 19-year-old Delran, N.J. native signed his first professional contract at his home in South Jersey on Tuesday evening and heads to Denmark today.

“It’s truly an honor to go overseas,” Rafanello said. “I’m super excited for it.”

Rafanello had three goals and an assist during his freshman season at Penn State last fall. After spending some time with Reading United in the U.S. Open Cup and in USL League Two play (3 goals, 1 assist in 7 total games), Rafanello had a chance to go on a 10-day trial at Helsingør, which was followed by a contract offer.

“All respect to everybody at Penn State and the coaches, I loved my time there and they did a lot for me,” he said. “I give the coaching staff a lot of credit.”

Prior to college, he made a pair of appearances for Bethlehem Steel FC, received call-ups from the United States U19 team and scored 43 goals in two seasons in the Development Academy with FC Delco U16s (2016-2017) and the Philadelphia Union U19s (2017-2018).

In FC Helsingør, Rafanello is joining a club purchased earlier this year by a team of U.S. investors with the stated purpose of developing young Americans.

“It’s awesome to know there is American ownership behind you and they want to develop you and get you to the next point in your career,” Rafanello said.

Rafanello grew up in Delran with a field named after Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes just beyond his backyard fence.

“Soccer is huge in Delran and everybody knows each other,” Rafanello said. “Living behind a soccer field was definitely awesome too just being able to walk out my back gate and play.”

Delran is also famously the hometown of USWNT star Carli Lloyd, who just won her second World Cup in France. Rafanello is the second soccer player from the South Jersey community with a population of 16,800 to go overseas this year. Former Rowan University standout Shane Doherty signed with Galway United in the Irish second division earlier this year.

L3 Sports, a group of soccer influencers that includes Carlos dos Santos, John Sessock, Omar Blanco, Leroy Sequeira, Cristiano Oliveira and Hugo Ferreira helped guide Rafanello through the process. Five of the men were present when Rafanello inked his first pro contract on Tuesday, something he’s had his sights on since he transitioned to the Union Academy from FC Delco and started attending YSC Academy for his final year of high school.

“Coming from the Union I just wanted to be a professional,” he said. “Things didn’t work out so I’m going to go overseas and make my dream a reality.”