Peter Nowak embraces Zach Pfeffer after the youngster exits.

Union's Pfeffer enjoying rise through the US ranks

As five of his Philadelphia Union teammates strive to make the US Under-23 Olympic squad, Zach Pfeffer quietly continues his climb up the national team ladder at younger levels.

Earlier this month, Pfeffer made his debut with the US Under-18 team. The Union midfielder, who recently turned 17, has already played for the U-14s, the U-15s and the U-17s.

“I wanted to keep on going through the age groups,” Pfeffer told “I won’t say I was completely surprised since I’ve been a regular since U-14s, but it was exciting to get the call.”

While Pfeffer boasts more experience than most of the other players called up to the U-18 camp – which was held in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., from Jan. 2-9 – the Union midfielder still needed to get adjusted to some new teammates and tactics.

For instance, Pfeffer noticed that U-18 coach Richie Williams stressed a more creative, attacking brand of soccer than what he’s seen in previous camps.

Of course, that kind of play suits the young playmaker just fine, and Pfeffer was able to leave a good impression on his new coach by scoring two goals and notching an assist in an intrasquad game on the last day of camp.

“Everything went well for me,” Pfeffer said. “It was a good game for me and overall I had a really good camp.”

What also helped Pfeffer in his U-18 debut was that goalie Zach Steffen and defender Miguel Alves, two members of the Union academy, were also called into camp. Pffefer is close friends with Steffen and got to know Alves during the course of the week in Florida.

With those three showing what they can do with the U-18s – and Freddy Adu, Amobi Okugo, Zac MacMath, Jack McInerney and Sheanon Williams all getting repeated calls for U-23 Olympic prep training – it’s certainly an exciting time to be a young Union player.

“It’s very cool to see,” Pfeffer said. “It shows we have a lot of very good young players on the team and it shows that we have a very promising future.”

And if Pfeffer – who also trained with the German club Hoffenheim this offseason – continues to climb the ladder as consistently as he has done thus far, he should certainly be in line to contend for a spot in the 2016 Olympics, as well as other national team opportunities not as far off.

“Our feeling is he will continue to do that,” Union coach John Hackworth said when asked about the midfielder’s rise through the system. “We expect him to get a look at the U-20 pool going forward. He’s done very well this offseason, both with Hoffenheim and with the U-18s, so we’re very happy with his progress.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for E-mail him at

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