Homegrowns Go for Gold


For the first time in the club's 15-year history, Philadelphia Union will be represented on international sports’ biggest stage as Homegrown players Jack McGlynn and Nate Harriel have been selected to join the United States men's soccer roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The pair will play for both club and country, proudly sporting red, white, and blue while drawing on experience gained through their climb up the Philadelphia Union’s renowned pathway to the pros.

McGlynn and Harriel have been perfecting their craft in the nation’s birthplace for years – they both began at the Philadelphia Union Academy level before advancing through the club’s ranks to become Homegrown players.

Since signing with the first team, they’ve become pillars of its culture and play style, helping lift the team to some of its most successful moments in history. Now, they’ll have the chance to do so for United States as part of the country’s first Olympic soccer team since 2008.

Harriel and McGlynn are set to depart the United States on Monday following the team’s rivalry match against New York Red Bulls; they’ll head to France in anticipation of their opening match on July 24th against the host nation, which falls two days before the official opening ceremony in Paris.

Before their trip abroad, the pair reflected on what it means to officially become Olympic athletes and their hopes for the weeks to come.

Jack McGlynn
Midfielder · Philadelphia Union

“I think participating in the Olympics is one of the best honors you can have in the United States and to have an opportunity to represent this country against so many other great ones is something truly special,” McGlynn said.

Standing on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the city he represents as a Philadelphia Union player, the 20-year-old midfielder was surrounded by flags of countries vying for the same thing as he is – an Olympic medal.

It’s an honor that United States Soccer has yet to achieve in the FIFA era, but McGlynn says it’s one this year’s team has their sights locked on.

“Winning a medal – that's our goal, obviously. We want to be the first US team to do so,” McGlynn said.

An Olympic soccer team roster consists of 18 players under the age of 23 with the exception of three overage players per FIFA’s structuring rules, and over the last few months, Head Coach Marko Mitrovic and his staff have welcomed a fluctuating group of players in and out of their camps during international breaks. Despite the frequent changes and time apart, McGlynn believes what makes the group special is the connection they’ve built between themselves.

“I think just how far we've come through all the camps. At the beginning, we were kind of strangers to each other – it's a bunch of different aged guys who play all over the world. But I think now, we're a real brotherhood both on and off the field,” McGlynn said.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the amount we see each other while we're at camp. We're with each other 24/7, whether we're rooming with each other or eating meals with each other. I think it really just comes from all that stuff we do off the field.”

When reflecting on his first memories of the games, McGlynn cited Jamaican track star Usain Bolt’s dominant 100 meter race in London 2012. He recalled the moment he broke and set the record that still stands today, but his favorite Olympian is Michael Phelps – he says it’s because the swimmer has won the most golds.

“Watching as a kid, it seemed like something you’d never get the opportunity to be a part of. Now that we are, it feels really surreal,” McGlynn said.

While the 2024 season hasn’t been a walk in the park for the Philadelphia Union, the minutes he and Harriel have played since signing with the senior squad in 2021 have been essential to their development.

The team started the year in CONCACAF Champions Cup for the second consecutive season, returning to the international stage to play high-powered clubs like Deportivo Saprissa and C.F. Pachuca. Their campaign ended in a second round exit against the eventual champions, but those experiences coupled with the club’s appearances in high-caliber Major League Soccer contests like the 2022 Eastern Conference Championship and MLS Cup have been invaluable.

“I think the Union has definitely prepared us well, giving both me and Nate a lot of good minutes against tough opposition. We’ve played in CONCACAF and in some of the biggest games that you can play in our league, so we’re ready,” McGlynn said.

“There's nothing better than representing your country and being in a special city like Philly.”

Nathan Harriel
Defender · Philadelphia Union

Growing up, Nate Harriel had a poster of Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson pinned up on his bedroom wall. He’s long-admired the four-time gold medal-winner and athletes like him, and soon, he’ll have a chance to make history of his own.

“The Olympics, I think, is the mecca of all athletes' dreams,” Harriel said. “You're playing the sport you love that you perfected for your whole entire life to represent your country on the biggest stage with all these athletes from around the world. That's a super cool feeling.”

It all starts on the coast, where Team USA will take on France in a highly-contested battle on the hosts’ home soil. It’ll be one of the most widely-watched games Harriel’s ever played in, and that isn’t lost on him.

“It’s crazy – we’re playing in Marseille for our first game, and Marseille is the biggest stadium in France. I think it'll be 60,000 people – it's going to be a hostile environment, but at the same time, it's going to be extremely fun, exciting, and a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

For Harriel, seeing his name on the final roster it’s a dream come true. The spot was never guaranteed, but the 23-year-old defender has been in top form this year, making himself an indispensable fixture of Mitrovic’s roster through success in his natural right back position, left back, and even centerback.

Competition for a call-up aside, Harriel shared the same sentiment as McGlynn when describing the makeup of this Olympic roster and what makes them special.

“What’s special about this group is just the commitment from everybody. Our hard work shows, we’re just one big cohesive group. There were more than 80 people at these camps, and we're all fighting for our spot, but at the same time, nothing's negative, everything's positive. It's a really good, close group of friends,” Harriel said.

“It's crazy. When we were younger, we were in these camps with each other so we share past experiences, but also just sharing these hard working weeks at camps, the friendlies, and playing each other in MLS fixtures. It's great to play against them, learn from them, too, but it really is one big brotherhood.”

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