CHESTER, Pa. (July 27, 2016) – Philadelphia Union have signed midfielder Derrick Jones as a Homegrown Player, the club announced Wednesday. Jones originally joined the Philadelphia Union Academy in November 2013 and later became the first player to ever sign with USL expansion team Bethlehem Steel FC in December 2015. He becomes the fourth player in Union history to ink a homegrown contract and the first since 2012.

“Derrick’s progression through our system has been quicker than anticipated and it’s evident that he is ready for the next step of his career,” Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart said. “This is a testament to Derrick’s commitment to his trade, and it should be considered a tremendous accomplishment to become the first player to come through our Academy, to Bethlehem Steel, and finally to the First Team. This is also a testament to the hard work of Tommy Wilson and his entire staff at the Academy, and I congratulate them for playing such a large role in this signing. Derrick has now set the benchmark for every player in our youth system, that there is a pathway to the professional level, and that it is achievable if you remain committed to your goals.”

Jones, 19, becomes the first homegrown signing to come out of Union Academy, which is based at YSC Sports in Wayne, Pa. The Union’s innovative Academy program launched in 2013 and competes in the US Soccer Development Academy League. Jones joined the Union Academy from local Philadelphia club Junior Lone Star in 2013 and immediately made an impact for the Union's U16s. After a stellar amateur career, Jones signed a professional contract with Bethlehem Steel FC on Dec. 6, 2015, becoming the first-ever signing for the USL expansion club that is owned and operated by Philadelphia Union. Through 20 games at Steel FC this season, Jones led the team in goals (4), assists (3) and was fourth in minutes played (1,478).

“We have had much interest from the media, U.S. Soccer and MLS, amongst others, regarding our Academy, the School and the programs we have in place. Personally, I have been pleased with this attention but I’ve always felt the acid test for us is the production of Players capable of playing in the First Team,” Academy Director Tommy Wilson said. “I’m delighted that Derrick is our first and that the work of our staff has come to fruition in this way. This is a proud moment for Derrick and his family. I would like to congratulate them and everyone else who has played a part in his development.”

Born in Bantama, Ghana, Jones moved to Philadelphia in 2012 and carries dual national citizenship with the United States and Ghana. He originally joined Junior Lone Star shortly after coming to Philadelphia in 2012, and then moved to the Union U16s in November of 2013. The following year, during the 2014-15 season, Jones enrolled at YSC Academy in August and joined the Union U18s. He played in 26 games with 21 starts, and scored eight goals while helping lead the team to the USSDA playoffs, where they finished second in group play. The following season, Jones played in eight games and scored three goals for the U18s, ultimately earning a contract with Bethlehem Steel FC.

Homegrown Players can be signed by an MLS club, and thus not subjecting the player to the SuperDraft, if he has been a member of a club’s youth academy for at least one year and has met the necessary training and retention requirements.