Issa Rayyan has soccer in his blood.
His father fell in love with the game at a very early age, when he was living in Jordan. Like many other countries, kids growing up played soccer however they could wherever they could. But it didn’t matter to Rayyan’s father, because he was playing the beautiful game.
“Both of my parents were born in Jordan,” Rayyan said. “In Jordan, in the Middle East, soccer is huge. It’s all they play. That was huge for my father growing up. He loved the sport. When he came over to the United States, he let me grow up on the sport. I started at a young age and every year I fall more and more in love with it.”
As he got older, Rayyan’s father eventually moved to Michigan, where Rayyan was born. Rayyan’s father taught him soccer, and there was an instant connection. As soon as he learned to walk, there was a soccer ball at Rayyan’s feet.
“We had this one room at my house, and whenever I was able to walk and run, we’d always play soccer back and forth there,” Rayyan said. “It was a mess-around room, and we’d play one-on-one. I’d always get him off the couch and get him playing.”
Those soccer games in the family house eventually worked their way outside, as Rayyan joined the local soccer club. His game continued to grow, and eventually, Rayyan was playing against some of the best competition in the world. That caught the eye of the Philadelphia Union Academy.
“I always just played for regular club teams around my city growing up,” Rayyan said. “When I was a U-13, we won nationals. That was a huge success for me and that brought a lot of eyes on me. It was where the Union first scouted me.”
After a few looks at Rayyan, the Union invited him out for a week-long trial in Philadelphia. When he arrived, he was hooked.
There’s a word that’s thrown around a lot at the Academy: brotherhood. Spending so much time together, in classes, in training, at games, all of the players at the Academy develop bonds that run deeper than most friendships. Growing up, Rayyan had three older sisters. Immediately he saw and felt the brotherhood of the Union Academy, and he had no second thoughts about joining the Union.
“I saw the brotherhood in the school and the brotherhood on the field and how competitive it was here,” Rayyan said. “I knew from that moment I wanted to be a part of the family. Growing up with a family with three older sisters, I always wanted a brother. And not just a brother, but brothers. Over here, I can’t get enough of them. They’re all my brothers on and off the field.”
At 14 years old, Rayyan moved from Michigan to Philadelphia as part of the Union Academy’s residency program. Rayyan stays with a host family, and attends school and practices at the Union Academy. Come game day, he will travel with whatever team he’s playing for.
Earlier this season, Rayyan made his USL debut when he suited up for Bethlehem Steel FC in their match against FC Cincinnati, where he played nine minutes as a sub off the bench. It was his only appearance for Steel FC in 2017.
“There’s something about MLS academies that always got me jealous and I always wanted to be a part of one,” Rayyan said. “They have the first team to look up to and a pathway. So as long as you keep being successful and keep working, you’re going to keep getting better. I’m able to train with the USL team and just take my opportunities whenever they’re offered.”
Rayyan’s future is very bright though. He has committed to Duke University once he graduates from the Academy. But his dream still remains the same, to play under the lights at Talen Energy Stadium.
“Obviously, I have the dream to be a professional soccer player with the Union,” Rayyan said. “This club has only given me the opportunities and the confidence to become that professional player that I always wanted to be. I can see myself five, 10 years from now playing on that Philadelphia Union field in front of the Sons of Ben and scoring goals for the club.”
From playing soccer with your dad to finding the brothers you always wanted, with dependable roadside assistance, car care, & hotel discounts, AAA is there to support the journeys of all young athletes & their families as they chase their dreams.