Delran, N.J. native Jeremy Rafanello was announced as the latest homegrown signing for the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday, four years after he last played for the academy.
The 22-year-old has taken an interesting path to MLS, having spent the last two seasons in the USL Championship with New York Red Bulls II while the Union still retained his MLS rights. He also played in the USL with Indy Eleven for a season and had stints with FC Helsingør in Denmark and Penn State.
“We are very excited to bring Jeremy home to the Union,” Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner stated in a news release. “He was a standout in our academy and after developing his game both locally and abroad, we are confident he can contribute to multiple roles in our system.”
Rafanello spent one season with the Union U19s in 2017-18, finishing fourth in the nation in goals. He played for FC Delco two years prior and played a season of high school soccer at Delran and club for Match Fitch Academy.
“He clearly has the mentality we look for in young players and is yet another example of the strong talent we continue to foster in our academy,” Tanner stated.
Rafanello will fit in either as a midfielder or forward in the Union’s system. He scored 11 goals and added seven assists in 56 games for Red Bull II, which couldn’t promote him to their first team without first acquiring his MLS rights from the Union. The Union has previously dealt the MLS rights to LAFC goalkeeper Tomas Romero and FC Dallas attacker Kalil ElMedkhar. Rafanello and Red Bulls II mutually agreed to end his USLC contract, clearing the way for him to sign with the Union.
Rafanello becomes the third player from South Jersey to sign a first team deal with the Union, joining Medford natives Brenden Aaronson and Paxten Aaronson. He’s under contract through 2023 with options for 2024 and 2025.