U16s inaugural season ends as MLS NEXT Cup Semifinalists


Philadelphia Union Academy’s U16 put up a strong run at the 2024 MLS NEXT Cup but saw it come to an end on Thursday afternoon as they fell to FC DELCO, 4-1.

The Union found itself in a difficult spot early in the match with a defender sent off in the seventh minute as the opposition launched a quick counter attack. Goalkeeper Ali Merhi was put to the test as a result with the rivals owning the majority of possession that forced three saves in the first 20 minutes.

FC DELCO broke through in the 25th minute as the MLS NEXT Cup’s overall leading goalscorer Michael Capretto broke the Union’ shutout streak with a quick finish after a turnover in the midfield. Philly got its opportunity to answer back five minutes later with a patient build up in the offensive third however Daniel Dixon inside the 18 saved by the keeper. The deficit for the U16s doubled in the 38th minute of play as Capretto scored a brace with a fortunate bounce as his shot was stopped by Merhi but deflected inside the post and in. The Union goalkeeper kept battling with a double save just before the halftime whistle as he protected the post to his left and then raced off his line to prevent a score off the rebound.

The Union continued to battle despite high temperatures to put on professional performance as they sought to prevent a shutout and with numbers committed to gett back into the match, conceeded a pair of goals in the final half. Substitute Brett Seemuller earned a chance from the penalty mark in the 88th minute to set up a finish from the spot by Gabriel Wessah to put the Boys in Blue on the scoreboard.

Philadelphia Union U-16s conclude the season with an impressive 35-10-5 record in their first season in which the Baby Snakes earned 21 shutouts. During the season the U16s under the direction of Head Coach Guillermo Hamdan Zaragoza won their MLS NEXT Division, finished runners-up at IberCup Cascais Elite and picked up victories over K.A.A. Gent, Rayo Vallecano, Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol.