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Mexico and U.S. youth international Diego Lopez departs the Union Academy

The midfielder from San Diego joined the academy in October 2020 but won’t be part of the U17 or Union 2 setup in 2022

Matt Ralph

Highly touted U.S. and Mexican youth international Diego Lopez won’t be returning to the Philadelphia Union Academy in 2022.

The 2005-born San Diego native joined the Union Academy in October 2020 and has played for Union 2 and the U17 team since his arrival. He previously spent time with Real Salt Lake and LAFC’s academies and is expected to be part of LA Galaxy II’s upcoming preseason camp.

Lopez has been called into youth national team camps for both the U.S. and Mexico. He is ranked No. 16 in TopDrawerSoccer.com’s rankings for players his age.

Tommy Wilson, Philadelphia Union Director of Academy and Professional Development, said Lopez’s departure came down to fit. He struggled at times to find playing time between the Union U17s and Union 2.

“The way we wanted to play and the way he wanted to play didn’t always align,” Wilson said. “He’s a really decent boy, good family and he’s a good player. I’m sure he’ll go to another MLS club and prosper there.”

Other recent high profile departures from the academy include midfielders Dylan Lacey, who joined the Red Bulls Academy last summer and Aaron Heard, who left the academy in August 2020 and is now playing for St. Louis SC’s academy in their inaugural MLS Next season. U.S. youth international Patrick Bohui left the Union to join FC Cincinnati’s academy in November 2020.

“A lot of young players come with great reputations,” Wilson said. “Sometimes everything aligns and it works out and sometimes it doesn’t and I think it’s better for both sides if it appears that it’s not working out to make the change.”

Lopez isn’t the only player who opted to leave the academy during the winter break.

San Diego native Gabriel Oksanen, a 2006-born outside back who joined the U17 team in August, has also departed the club.

The MLS Next season resumes for the Union’s U13, U14, U15 and U17 teams on February 19. Training for the academy teams resumes this Wednesday.