Brenden Aaronson is officially headed to Europe.
The Philadelphia Union announced Friday morning that the teenage midfielder — he turns 20 next week — will move from his hometown club to Austrian champion FC Salzburg for what thee Union called a “multi-million-dollar transfer fee.”
Per Major League Soccer’s rules, specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed. However, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the deal is for $6 million and could reach as high as $9 million based on performance incentives.
Aaronson will complete the 2020 MLS season with Philadelphia, then join Salzburg in January when the international transfer window opens.
“Playing in Europe has always been a part of my dream,” said Aaronson, a former Union academy product who grew up 20 miles east of Philadelphia and debuted with the first team last year. He has seven goals and seven assists in 46 career games, including four goals and five helpers in 18 matches this season.
“His dynamism and his presence on the field are extraordinary for a 19-year-old,” said Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund. “Despite his young age, he already has an excellent feeling for making the right decisions on the pitch. With his way of playing football, Brenden is a perfect match for us.”
Part of the reason is his work rate. Salzburg relies on young players in an up-tempo, pressing game that is designed to unsettle wealthier and more decorated foes. Last season, the club nearly advanced from a Champions League group that contained Liverpool and Napoli. This year, they drew Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Lokomotiv Moscow in the first round.
“Over the past couple of years, he’s become very developed technically and the distance and speed he covers over the course of a game are unmatched,” Union coach Jim Curtin said of Aaronson.
Salzburg has also gained a reputation as one of the top teams in the world for developing young talent for Europe’s elite leagues. In recent years, it has nurtured the likes of Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and Liverpool pair Sadio Mané and Takumi Minamino before moving them on. According to the Inquirer, the Union would receive between 10- and 20-percent of any future transfer fee for Aaronson.
The fact that Salzburg is coached by an American, former New York Red Bulls boss Jesse Marsch, should help ease Aaronson’s transition to life overseas.
Aaronson has made one appearance with the United States men’s national team. His lone cap came earlier this year in a friendly win over Costa Rica.