As we count down the days until the MLS season begins, we will be looking at 25 players from greater Philadelphia who have made an impact on the league 25 years after the first ball was kicked. Read the rest of the series at brotherlygame.com/philly-mls-25.
At just 25 years old, Zack Steffen has made himself into one of the most successful athletes from the Philadelphia area. Now a keeper for Manchester City and the USMNT, Steffen worked his way up around the world and back, starting all the way back with West Chester United Soccer Club.
Steffen first played recreational soccer with West Bradford Youth Athletics and began playing for West Chester United travel as a kid, playing originally as a defender, but later switched to his position of choice, goalkeeper when his teammate failed to make a match.
Steffen played with West Chester United until the age of 13 and played for his high school soccer team at Malvern Prep as a middle schooler. It was during this time that he left West Chester United and moved to FC Delco, where he played until 2013. He then continued through Malvern until his junior year of high school, when he transferred to Downingtown West High School. It was also at this time that Steffen began to earn USYNT caps, playing three games with the U.S. U-18 squad.
From 2012-2013, Steffen was one of several top local club players who also trained with the Philadelphia Union Academy. With the Union’s U-17 team, Steffen was coached by Jim Curtin and led the team of players from FC Delco, PA Classics and PDA to the 2012 Generation Adidas Cup with a penalty shootout win in the final against Toronto FC.
After high school, Steffen attended the University of Maryland and started from day one and helped lead the Terps to the College Cup final at then-PPL Park in Chester. Maryland came up short that day though with a 2-1 loss to Notre Dame on a goal off a free kick scored by West Chester native Andrew O’Malley.
After two seasons at Maryland, Steffen made his professional debut in Germany with SC Freiburg’s second team and worked his way into the first team but a few weeks after being named the third string keeper he returned tot he U.S. to sign with the Columbus Crew.
With the Crew, Steffen began to earn more international attention, including some from stronger European sides. With American goalkeeping legend Tim Howard on the way out, Steffen looked to be the next American brick wall that the National Team could rely on. Steffen played 84 games with the Crew, conceding 112 goals while recording 26 clean sheets.
His 7,620 minutes for the Crew in the MLS regular season and postseason is the most ever for a goalkeeper from the Philadelphia region in MLS. His performances both for club and country meant his days in the U.S. were numbered.
During the middle of the 2019 MLS season, Steffen was sent from Columbus to Manchester City, which paid $7.5 million for the young keeper. Manchester then loaned Steffen to Fortuna Dusseldorf for just under a year, where he recorded over 1,500 minutes, allowing 36 goals, and earning two clean sheets.
Steffen has since returned to Man City, with a contract with the English side until 2023. For the foreseeable future, Steffen will continue to be a staple for the USMNT, and represent the peak of Philadephia-area soccer both on the field and off. Last summer, Steffen helped found the anti-racism initiative VOYCENOW.