Philadelphia Union Academy’s annual participation in the Generation adidas Cup begins this Friday at the Power Training Complex, as the Union U17s and U15s compete against their MLS Academy peers as part of the qualifiers for the Generation adidas Cup finals in Frisco, Texas in April.
Philadelphia Union has the honor to host the first of the two qualifying “Generation adidas Cup East” legs of the competition. Seven clubs in total, including Atlanta United FC, D.C. United, Orlando City SC, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, and NYCFC, will compete in a round-robin format to qualify for the “Champions” bracket of the Generation adidas Cup final at Toyota Park.
Philadelphia Union U17s will kick off the competition Friday at 11 a.m. versus reigning Development Academy champions Atlanta United, but Union U17 coach Gary Lewis is looking forward to the opportunity for his team to play other elite teams.
“It’s exciting, because we don’t think they’ll change their philosophy for us, and we definitely won’t for them,” Lewis said. "There will be respect there, but we will go out and play our way. They’ll be pitting their wit against us and our two philosophies will be going head to head. That’s what is so exciting about it. New England on Saturday, NYCFC on Monday…they’ll be exactly the same. They’ll stick to their guns regardless, as will we. Even in terms of the score line, we will continue to do the right things. Even if we’re losing 1-0, we won’t be resorting to long balls, we will continue to play our style. If Atlanta is very good, they may beat us, and so be it. But we’re very prepared for this, and we have some fantastic individual players. "
Generation adidas Cup has historically featured as a platform for the top talents in MLS Academies to shine. In previous years, Philadelphia Union homegrown players Auston Trusty and Anthony Fontana have starred and shown their ability to compete at a high level against elite competition. With the increasing success of the MLS Homegrown Initiative, Generation adidas Cup introduced a U15 division for the qualifiers for the 2017-18 tournament. The addition of the division is especially indicative of the emphasis on long-term development.
Gary Lewis, speaking to the Union’s commitment to long-term development, expounded: “We’ve created an environment where our players don’t get are very grounded and understand that this is about long term player development. We speak about that with the boys, that it’s not about the here-and-now, it’s about being a good teammate and expressing yourself on the field. The priority is to get players into the Philadelphia Union first team. The goal is always that you arrive at the first team with all of the tools we’ve provided over the years. We’ve got to maintain the message and implement the message and not get overly excited.
The importance of Generation adidas Cup has meant that, annually, players “playing up” at older age groups or with Bethlehem Steel FC have rejoined their age group for the competition. Last year, Issa Rayyan lead the team in scoring for the tournament and eventually debuted the same season with the Steel. This year, three players will be joining the U17s for the tournament.
"We’ve developed a very robust development pathway,” Lewis said. "It’s not about this being an opportunity to highlight themselves, it’s about continuing our approach. An example of that is Michael Pellegrino, who played on Saturday with Bethlehem Steel against two former Premier Leaguers including Joe Cole, and he performed really well. He walks in yesterday as if nothing has happened, and he’s all set for Generation adidas Cup. It’s not about him playing up or playing with the U17s, it’s about developing with the really good opportunity with Steel, and coming back to perform with his age group. If we stick with the message and the way we work, those special individuals will come through…I have no doubt about it. We have three ’01s rejoining the team for this weekend, Kris Shakes, Axel Picazo, and Michael Pellegrino, all who normally play with the U19s, and we’re going to integrate them in as normal. The way it is set up now through Earnie’s message, through Brendan Burke with Steel, and Jeff Cook’s U19s, we’re all very similar in the way we play, so players can move between each age group easily because of the system and style of play. They’ll just slot in like they’ve been here all year with the U17s."
Generation adidas Cup is open to the public at Power Training Complex.
Philadelphia Union Schedule:
- Friday, October 6th: 11 a.m. vs. Atlanta United
- Saturday, October 7th: 4 p.m. vs. New England Revolution
- Monday, October 9th: 1:30 p.m. vs. NYCFC
- Friday, October 6th: 4 p.m. vs. Atlanta United
- Saturday, October 7th: 11 a.m. vs. New England Revolution
- Monday, October 9th: 11 a.m. vs. NYCFC