Philadelphia Union signs 14-year-old Cavan Sullivan to record deal, future Man City transfer agreed

The Philadelphia Union has completed its unique deal to sign highly-rated U.S. youth international Cavan Sullivan to the most lucrative homegrown contract in MLS history, sources briefed on the deal tell The Athletic.

Sullivan has signed his contract with Philly, sources say. All that’s left is the announcement.

Sullivan will then transfer to Manchester City when he turns 18, the first time an agreement like that has been baked into a player’s first MLS contract. Sullivan has also signed his Manchester City deal, which will go into effect when he joins the club, sources say. Fabrizio Romano first reported his City deal was signed.

City will pay up to $5 million for the 14-year-old, sources told The Athletic. Philadelphia will retain a sell-on percentage in Sullivan as well.

The deal is unprecedented both in finances and in pathway – The deal is the richest for a homegrown player in MLS history, and while there have been pre-arranged transfers in MLS, Sullivan’s deal is believed to be the first of a pre-agreed transfer in conjunction with signing a homegrown deal.



Cavan Sullivan, the 14-year-old American ‘diamond’ Man City will pay $2 million for

The closest to this arrangement was when FC Dallas signed Chris Richards to a homegrown deal before the defender left on loan for Bayern Munich’s U-19s. He was transferred to the club permanently the summer after his successful loan. Dallas and Bayern had recently entered into a strategic partnership, in that instance, while there is no connection along those lines between Philly and City.

Sullivan has a German passport, so he could have signed within the European Union upon his 16th birthday and the Union would have only been given training compensation, rather than a transfer fee they’re getting from City. This, sources say, all but required Philadelphia to include the Man City transfer as part of its homegrown deal if it hoped to receive a transfer fee for Sullivan.

Previous talents of his caliber from the United States with European Union passports, like Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, skipped MLS and went straight to Europe, with both signing for Borussia Dortmund. Weston McKennie spent time in the FC Dallas academy but skipped signing his first professional deal with an MLS club and signed directly for Schalke.

The Philadelphia Union academy has produced numerous homegrown players that went on to play abroad, including Brenden Aaronson (Union Berlin on loan from Leeds United), Paxten Aaronson (Vitesse on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt), Auston Trusty (Sheffield United) and Mark McKenzie (KRC Genk). Highly-rated academy graduates Jack McGlynn and Cavan’s older brother Quinn are key players in the first team.

Sullivan made his professional debut in March with the Union’s second team, providing the game-winning assist off the bench in MLS’s developmental league, MLS Next Pro. He has two appearances in MLS Next Pro now.

The 14-year-old could make his first-team debut this year if he continues progressing.

Sullivan is viewed as the best American prospect in his age group and also one of the best in the world. He led the United States under-15s to the 2023 CONCACAF U-15 Championship title and earned the Golden Ball for the best player at the tournament. Sullivan played up with the Union U-17 team at the GA Cup this spring, leading his side to win the tournament.

(Photo: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

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