The Philadelphia Union has reportedly reached a deal with Belgian club KRC Genk for center back Mark McKenzie, according to Belgian outlets Belang van Limburg and Nieuwsblad and later confirmed by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Rumors are still flying around for McKenzie’s price, with estimates between $3.6 to $6 million. According to MLSsoccer.com, the Union will receive a fee of $6 million in addition to sell-on percentages and other add-ons.
McKenzie, born in the Bronx, NY, moved to Bear, Delaware and joined the Union through the Philadelphia Union Academy after playing for local clubs Delaware Rush and Wilmington Rangers. He attended Wake Forest University for one year before turning professional as a Union homegrown.
McKenzie made an immediate impact with the Union. In his first season, McKenzie played in nineteen games and started in eighteen. The following season, McKenzie only played in nine games and started in eight (including playoff matches, but not including non-MLS matches).
In 2020, the rumor mill began to circulate around McKenzie, now 21, as Taylor Twellman revealed that Scottish club Celtic was interested in the center back. Celtic reportedly gave the Union several offers for McKenzie, with the highest bid reported at $4 million. McKenzie has also been previously connected with various Premier League and Bundesliga teams.
KRC Genk currently stands at second place in the Belgian First Division A. Their most recent title came in the 2018-19 season, winning their league alongside the Belgian Super Cup. Genk also qualified for the 2019-20 Champions League and looks to be on the path for another Champions League bid.
Genk has a history of developing and selling successful young players, including Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne, Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey, and Toronto FC’s Alejandro Pozuelo, who earned MLS MVP for the 2020 season. Genk’s development of McKenzie could give the Union another substantial check, based upon whether or not Genk sells the young defender, and for how much.
The sale would mark the second young Homegrown the Union has sent to Europe in 2020, with midfielder Brenden Aaronson sent RB Salzburg late in the 2020 MLS season. McKenzie’s sale gives the Union an influx of cash for the offseason to improve the team for a try at another major trophy in 2021.