Zach Pfeffer’s family held season tickets for the Union’s inaugural season.
The view for Philadelphia's newest signee will be quite different in 2011.
After training with the Union for part of last season, Pfeffer was signed to a professional contract as the club’s first Homegrown Player. The 15-year-old, who recently returned from a two-week training stint with German Bundesliga side TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, was a member of Philadelphia’s U-17 squad that competed in the MLS U-17 SUM Cup in Houston in July.
While the rest of his family will be cheering from raucous PPL Park, Pfeffer will be vying for a chance to be included on the 18-man match day roster.
But he wasn’t ready to give up his seat just yet.
“Nope, I don’t think so,” Pfeffer said on Wednesday afternoon. “I think I probably still will keep them anyway. I’ll be able to give the tickets to family and friends.”
Pfeffer becomes the first player to join the Union from the MLS Homegrown Player initiative, a program started in 2006 designed to provide increased opportunities for local players. Each MLS team may sign players from their respective youth development programs without subjecting those players to the MLS SuperDraft. Born January 6, 1995, Pfeffer is the fourth youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract, behind Freddy Adu, Fued Ibrahim, and New England Revolution Homegrown Player Diego Fagundez.
Pfeffer has represented the United States at the U-14 and U-15 levels and trained at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fl., as part of U.S. Soccer’s residency program earlier this year. Prior to training with the Union, the young midfielder was a member of the U-15/U-16 USSF FC Delco Academy, as well as the Upper Dublin, Cheltenham, YMS, and Montgomery United youth clubs.
Just a sophomore at nearby Upper Dublin High School in Dresher, Pa., Pfeffer is still two weeks shy of celebrating his 16th birthday.
Just think about it. He can’t drive a motor vehicle yet. He’s got two-plus years of high school remaining before graduating. And he’s going to be donning an MLS uniform.
Pretty cool, isn’t it?
“Right now, I’m very excited,” Pfeffer said. “It’s a dream come true for me and it was a quick turnaround. Everything has happened so fast the last few months. It was definitely a big surprise when it first came about. I’m thrilled it happened, and gave me an opportunity I’ve always wanted. I’ve always wanted to play professional soccer since I began playing.”
[inline_node:288453]The 5-foot-7, 140-pound Pfeffer takes chemistry and geometry in the morning at Upper Dublin High School and takes four classes through an online program. Mixed in are his training sessions – not to mention homework.
Pfeffer is used to the hectic schedule. Actually, it is normal to him.
“I know it’s not a normal 15-year-old teen life,” Pfeffer said. “I’ve handled everything well. It’s not even too overwhelming. I’m kind of used to the routine in waking up early, going to school and then off to training. Again, it’s not too overwhelming. Obviously, it’s a big sacrifice for my parents now.”
Pfeffer’s mother, Margie, has been driving him to training. Watching her son develop into an MLS player has been a surreal experience.
“It’s been an absolute dream come true,” Margie said. “He started this journey when he was four years old. Zach never picked up a toy. It was always a ball. … It’s been an amazing journey. He’s learned so much at each level. Each step has motivated him even more to take the next step. It’s an amazing accomplishment for the whole family.”
Pfeffer has no plans to rest on his laurels. In other words, this is just the first step.
“I’m really excited,” Pfeffer said. “I’m thrilled for this opportunity. Everyone is thrilled and excited since the announcement was made. Everyone has been congratulating me. It has been really nice.”