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SSFC Spotlight: Jack McGlynn makes statement at CONCACAF U-20 Championship

Philadelphia Union midfielder scores fantastic goal in Honduras.

New York City FC v Philadelphia Union: 2021 MLS Playoffs - Eastern Conference Final Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

The United States Under-20 Men’s National Team needed a mere two matches to reach the knockout stage of the 2022 CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Several intriguing players have emerged during the competition, with the next generation of American talent on display. The second fixture, a 2-2 draw with rivals Canada, featured a stunning strike from Jack McGlynn. The 18-year-old Philadelphia Union midfielder has been making great strides over the past few seasons, showing signs of being a potential star in the future.

McGlynn was born in the New York borough of Queens and played club soccer with BW Gottschee, where his father serves as an independent director. In 2019, he joined the vaunted Philadelphia Union Academy. The club quickly promoted him to the reserve team, but his start at the professional level was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing a return home to train with his brother, Conor of Hartford Athletic. In his first season, the midfielder contributed five goals and three assists in 14 appearances, twice earning Team of the Week honors from the USL Championship.

Following his success, McGlynn was signed to the MLS squad. “We are excited to welcome Jack to the first team,” said Sporting Director Ernst Tanner. “After signing with Union II, he has continued to impress the technical staff with his development after making an early impact with our USL team. His ability to play across the midfield and his capacity to process new information and put it into action on the pitch at a young age shows how high his ceiling can be.”

In 2021, McGlynn made a total of 25 appearances across all competitions, including featuring in the CONCACAF Champions League and all three matches during the MLS Cup Playoffs. After converting a penalty in a shootout against Nashville SC, he started in the Eastern Conference Final, a 2-1 loss to eventual champions New York City FC. While adjusting to “the speed of the game,” the teenager benefitted from veteran leadership, while “playing with confidence” in training and receiving individual instruction from manager Jim Curtin.

Despite looking ready for an increase in minutes, McGlynn has split time between the first-team and reserves in MLS Next Pro. He has made eight appearances in the top division, all coming as a substitute, with observers beginning to advocate for further inclusion due to his “creativity” and ability to “unlock a sitting-back defense with his movement.” Amid speculation of an eventual move to Europe, the midfielder signed with Roc Nation Sports International, becoming the agency’s first MLS player.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” McGlynn told the Views from the Bridge podcast, commenting on the club’s recent history of successful transfers. “I think right now I’m just focused on getting more minutes [in Philadelphia], becoming a starter, [and] showing myself. We’ll see what happens from there. Obviously, Europe would be a really big goal for me, but it’s not something I’m focused on right now. I’m focused on here.”

At the international level, McGlynn, who could also be eligible for Ireland, began receiving call-ups to the United States program at the U-14 level and helped the U-16 team claim the 2019 Nike Friendlies. Manager Mikey Varas named him to the squad for the 2022 CONCACAF U-20 Championship. He appeared in all three group-stage matches, including starting and playing 90 minutes against Canada. His superlative long-distance goal helped secure a crucial point to advance to the knockout rounds.

Described as having a “high-level soccer IQ” and “incredibly high ceiling,” McGlynn is a box-to-box midfielder with a “smooth left foot” and devastating scoring touch from distance. As expected from a Union player, he is an improving presser, tackling and winning duels against opponents from the “left side of the diamond.” His passing and dribbling statistics are well above the MLS average, always looking to play the ball forward, while “progressive passes” and “shot-creating actions” are in the 96th and 97th percentile, respectively. Marcus Chairez of Chasing a Cup notes that his physicality and “sixth sense for the game” need to be improved in order to overcome “mobility limitations.”

McGlynn frequently pushes into the final third, looking to play daring line-splitting through balls to the strikers. He displays solid spacing in the build-up and final third, making himself available as an outlet to teammates. Immediately after the Union loses the possession, his response is to quickly reengage and attack the opponent or drop back, managing to make the necessary “big tackles” and “little defensive plays.” Vylela praises him as “competitively focused” and an “accurate passer at all ranges” with “a wide stride [that] allows him to cover a lot of ground in transition” without “losing possession cheaply.”

“He is more or less standing for the easiness to play this game,” said Sporting Director Ernst Tanner. “His technical actions are always clear. His decision-making is always in the way we would like to play. For such a young boy, he’s doing so few mistakes, which to me is almost abnormal. But his mindset, his skills, his character, everything is so positive that it is just a matter of time and also a matter of patience from our side and as well as from his side.”

Players are judged on abilities far beyond a dazzling highlight reel finish that spreads across social media. While McGlynn has provided a huge individual moment for the United States, his excellent passing ability and professional mentality are perhaps even more impressive. With continued development, he should grow into a starter in Philadelphia before ideally progressing to a bigger stage at the club and international levels.