Union lock up McKenzie through 2022; yet another positive for their Youth Academy system

Union center back and YSC Youth Acadamy graduate, Mark McKenzie, agreed to terms on a new long-term contract extension that is guaranteed through the 2022 season. The contract has club options that could keep McKenzie in town through 2024.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

While many Union fans are anxiously awaiting the announcement of a new signing that both Sporting Director Ernst Tanner and Head Coach Jim Curtin eluded to earlier this week, center back Mark McKenzie completed his negotiations to stick around with his home town club for a few more years. It’s a well-deserved contract extension for the young Homegrown player.

McKenzie, a Bear, DE native and soon to be a 21-year old pro, took hold of a starting spot alongside fellow center back Jack Elliott late in the 2019 season after overcoming early-season injury troubles. He would then start both playoff contests last season which further solidified his standing as a starter. The shift from Auston Trusty, also an Academy graduate, to McKenzie in the starting XI forced a transfer that sent Trusty to Colorado. Now McKenzie will have a great opportunity to truly be a stalwart defender for Curtin the next few seasons.

“We’re excited to have come to an agreement on a new contract with Mark, solidifying his spot on our team. As a homegrown player, he exemplifies our commitment to the development of our academy players,” said Tanner in a press release yesterday afternoon.

McKenzie appeared in 26 matches the last two seasons, starting 24 times including those two important starts last season in the MLS Cup Playoffs in which he aided in winning the first playoff game in franchise history for Philadelphia.

His international experience within the USMNT system is another major bright spot so far through the youngster’s short professional career. He’s currently training with the senior team as an invitee to January camp. He did so last year as well. He’s no stranger to it. Which is one of the main reasons Union fans should be excited to have his services guaranteed through 2022.

But perhaps the most important aspect of McKenzie’s contract extension is the message it sends to youth players within the Union’s Academy now. Those youngsters are most likely eager to see signs of promise in their own futures; signs that maybe one day they too can enjoy the same type of success that McKenzie has. And Tanner noted that as well in his comments above.

By inking a new deal, McKenzie becomes another ‘blueprint for success’ so to speak for other Academy players. If you put your head down, keep working, and follow the process, you too can enjoy the fruits of that labor.

And McKenzie showcases his professionalism not only in the training room but also off the pitch. Those efforts haven’t gone unnoticed either.

“Mark has become a proven asset on and off the field,” said Tanner. “Through his development, he’s become a valuable centerback who sees everything in front of him and is an emerging role model in the community.”

McKenzie is known to be very outgoing with fans, especially the young ones. Most recently, the club released a post on twitter which highlighted some special time McKenzie spent quality time with a pair of Shining Stars whom he met through the March of Dimes organization last fall.

He’s also known to be one of the main public faces at Union meet and greet events like Kid’s Night last September. He does not shy away from putting himself out there. He knows just how special it is for a child to interact with someone they perceive as a role model and his personality is a vital asset for Philadelphia moving forward.

The past week has been immensely positive for the Union’s Youth Academy. Not only will the extension to McKenzie funnel through the lower ranks of the Academy as a beacon of hope for those within it, but the video of the U-12’s dominating in South America also proved to be a massive positive.

For now, Union fans can rejoice knowing McKenzie and Elliott will both be together through 2021 at least. They also can continue waiting for news regarding a new player signing. It seems Matej Oravec will be the next name announced due to his posts on social media. But as Curtin mentioned this week on a radio appearance, he or the club can’t make any comments on that since no deals are firmly set in place.

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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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