Cavan and club leaders reflect on Thursday's historic announcement


On Thursday morning, Philadelphia Union revealed that 14-year-old Cavan Sullivan had agreed to a record-breaking deal, becoming the youngest player to join the club’s first team. Cavan’s signing made history on the league level too, as his contract is the largest for a Homegrown that Major League Soccer has ever seen.

Shortly after the momentous announcement, Cavan joined Union Head Coach Jim Curtin, Union II Head Coach Marlon LeBlanc, and Director of Academy and Professional Development, John Scheer at Subaru Park for his first official press conference as a pro player.

“To start, off the union means almost everything to me,” Cavan said.

“It's my club. Watching Quinn, on the sidelines of his games, I've just been in and around the club since I was a little kid. This is my home, and it's an honor to sign here for my first professional contract. It means a lot that they see the town in me at such a young age, and I want to prove myself and work for this club in this city.”


All three branches of the Union have been integral in his development, and together, the respective representatives from each expressed the gravity of the moment, how it came to be, and what comes next as he moves forward with the club and city he calls home.

“This is a historic day for the Philadelphia Union. It is not often in any sport that you get to sign a generational talent, especially here in Philadelphia, in soccer, so it's an exciting day for us,” Curtin said.

“One that a lot of hard work has gone into, most importantly from the player, Cavan. I will take a second to thank ownership, Jay Sugarman, who went above and beyond behind the scenes to get this complex deal done. I'm very grateful for that.”

Cavan has held the attention of the soccer world for the better part of his four year tenure at the Philadelphia Union Academy, the leaders beside him in the press conference ensured those listening that at his boyhood club, the focus will be on continued development and elevating to the highest level of play.

“Cavan is a generational talent, that is not the opinion of just the Philadelphia Union that is shared globally, through scouts, through clubs all over the world. Cavan is 14, his job here will be to be a kid and play and reach his full potential. Our job here is to create an environment where he can thrive.”

For Curtin, sitting next to a second Sullivan signed to play for him, the first being Cavan’s brother Quinn, hit home in every sense of the phrase. Philadelphia is home for him, too, having attended Bishop McDevitt high school before attending Villanova University, where Larry and Brendan Sullivan, grandfather and father of Curtin’s current players, were Head Coach and assistant.

He took time to reminisce on his fond memories playing for the Sullivans, and how his days on the mainline shaped him as a player, first playing professionally with Chicago Fire before shifting to coaching himself.

“The Sullivans are Philadelphia soccer royalty, you go from Larry Sullivan, a guy that I get emotional every time I talk about, but a guy that taught me so much about the game, about being a leader, a person and a good soccer player as well,” Curtin said.

“Brendan was his assistant at Villanova while I was there, and I'll just say the times were different, right? You can look up to your brother, you can look up to whatever MLS star you love, and soccer is on TV all the time. But Brendan was the first guy that I saw that was a professional level player that I saw day in and day out, and he coached and taught me so there's an element of that excitement, full circle moment, where he's the guy that I looked up to as a kid.”

Curtin gave the family due props for shaping all four sons into model people off the pitch, but when speaking of his play on the pitch, however, all credit went to Cavan, describing his play using words like explosive, relentless, and fearless.

When he gets the ball, it's electric, something's going to happen here. He's going to do something that I don't think of as a coach, I can't teach as a coach, he's going to do something outside the box,” Curtin said.

“That's something that you can't really put words to. But again, just give them the ball. The special players have it and some don't, and it doesn't matter whether they're old or young. It only matters if they're good or bad, and he's good."

Curtin and LeBlanc agreed that there is no set timeline for Cavan’s debut for the first team. But the leader of the reserves gave some insight on how he predicts time on the field with his Union II team could expedite that process.

“There's no magic wand to put an expectation on when [his first team debut] is. I think my role will be very different, my role is going to be allowing him to go out and fail and succeed. He'll be learning in front of the fans on game day, and you guys will get to see that,” LeBlanc said,

“I think it's really cool that the second team project here allows me to put young guys like Cavan on the field. My job is not to win games, we just so happen to be good enough that we're winning games as well. My job is to put Cavan out there and to make sure that Jim, Ernst, and those guys can answer that eye test and say ‘yeah, he's ready to go.’ But that will come in time.”

Cavan is a 14-year-old playing professional games with Union II and now training with a first team that rosters players more than double his age.

One might ask, how did he get to that level of play?

Raw talent and family influence aside, a lot of that can be credited to the academy, and its diligent development system.

“We just want to create an environment that fosters their development, and creates a space where they can express who they are, and find themselves throughout the course of their development. Certainly, we won't be making comparisons because he is so special at what he does. But Cavan’s a really good example for our other Academy players and families to understand that not only does he do special things with the ball, but his confidence in self and self belief is what has really taken him through the ranks here and will continue to take him for years to come,” Scheer said.

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