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14-year-old Cavan Sullivan signs deal with Philadelphia Union that will land him with Man City at 18

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Cavan Sullivan shrugs off words like prodigy, phenom or even wonderkid, all things he’s been called at just 14.

But there’s no doubt Sullivan is talented. On Thursday, the Philadelphia Union formally announced that they’ve signed their academy prospect to a Homegrown contract that will eventually land him with Manchester City.

“I tend not to even listen to what they call me or what they say about me. It’s really just what I think of myself,” Sullivan said. “I don’t really listen to anyone, whether it’s good or bad. So it doesn’t really get to me whatsoever.”

The long-rumored deal — said to be the richest Homegrown signing in Major League Soccer history, although no details were released — allows the Union to continue to develop Sullivan and benefit in the short term from his ability, before profiting when he likely heads overseas to the Premier League. It also allows him to stay at home for a few more years.

Sullivan is considered one of the best young American players. In a match last April between the U.S. under-15 team and England in Spain, he scored both goals in a 2-2 draw that the Americans won in a penalty shootout.

He was named the best player at the CONCACAF under-15 championships. He had a pair of assists in the 4-2 victory over Mexico in the final.

Union coach Jim Curtin recently called Sullivan “a special talent, top talent not only in this country but in the world.”

Sullivan has already made his professional debut, coming off the bench for the Union’s MLS NEXT team last month and getting an assist on the game-winning goal. He’s made two appearances for the team, a step below the Union’s senior squad.

The teen hopes to make his Union senior debut this year. If he does, he’ll join his brother, Quinn, another academy product who has played for the team since 2021.

Sullivan (14 years, 224 days) is the fifth-youngest player to sign a first-team contract in MLS history. If he plays for the Union before July 29, he’ll become the youngest player ever to appear in a match. Freddy Adu was 14 years, 306 days old when he debuted for D.C. United in 2004.

“I think Jim Curtin was really integral in getting Cavan here, if I’m being completely honest,” said his dad, Brendan Sullivan. “He called us, he reached out to us, he said, `Look, I think he can play for me right away. With a little bit of a little bit of coaching, we think that he’s ready and we’re willing to take that on.’”

Sullivan, a Philadelphia native, is the youngest of four brothers. Quinn, 20, is the oldest. Brendan Sullivan played professionally in the A-League, which eventually became the USL First Division, a tier below MLS. His mother, Heike, played at Penn. Grandfather Larry coached at Villanova from 1991-2007.

Sullivan said he first started to get attention by clubs when he was just 10.

“I think that’s really when I thought, `This is happening.’ It didn’t feel real but definitely triggered something in my mind where I was like, `I can do this,'” Sullivan said.

Sullivan can’t play for Manchester City until he is 18. But he holds a German passport that could allow him to move to Europe and play for City-affiliated teams — like Girona in Spain or Palermo in Italy — when he turns 16.

Because of the collaborative transfer agreement with Manchester City, Sullivan’s deal is unusual. It signals that the Premier League club trusts that the Union can develop an elite player.

Sullivan isn’t looking too far ahead. In many ways he’s a typical teenager, albeit a very gifted one. He jokes: “I’m a pretty boring kid, to be honest.”

“I mean, you can see him. He’s a pretty even-keeled kid,” his mother said. “He really does that on his own. I’m sure we help keep him grounded, but I think he is already grounded, and I think he should get a lot of credit for that.”


AP soccer:

AP Soccer Writer