The Philadelphia Union will be without the services of the club's first ever Homegrown Player, Zach Pfeffer, for the entire 2013 season. But there's a good reason for it.
Pfeffer will spend the year with TSG Hoffenheim of Germany's Bundesliga, one of the top soccer leagues in the world.
Officially, Pfeffer's tenure at Hoffenheim will begin January 7, as the Bundesliga takes a winter break during the coldest parts of the season. He'll remain abroad through the summer and return to the Union on December 31, 2013.
"Loaning Zach to Hoffenheim is a win-win situation for all parties involved," Union manager John Hackworth said in a statement released by the team. "While we will miss Zach for the 2013 season, we know that the experience at this stage of his maturation process will be invaluable to both him and the club for the future."
Pfeffer has taken two short trips to Hoffenheim in the past for training purposes. Now he'll become a full-fledged part of the club.
"I think the [Union] is looking out for me and really wants me to develop, so I can be a big part of this team in the future," Pfeffer said in a statement.
When the Dresher, Pa., native joined the Union as a 15-year-old in December 2010, the signing was the front-page cover story in the Daily News.
But he receded from the spotlight after that. Though officially on the first team roster, Pfeffer remained a student at Upper Dublin High School. He has only played in four league games for the Union, plus a few exhibition contests.
"The main thing is I need a place to play games - most importantly, good, competitive games," Pfeffer said. "In [Major League Soccer's] Reserve League, we have 10, and that’s really not enough - not even close to enough."
When Pfeffer arrives at Hoffenheim, he won't be the only player with an American accent. Left back Fabian Johnson and midfielder Danny Williams are regulars with the U.S. national team.
There seems to be a developing relationship between Hoffenheim and the Union. Philadelphia midfielder Jimmy McLaughlin - also a Homegrown Player - recently spent 10 days training at Hoffenheim, and Hoffenheim loaned midfielder Kai Herdling to the Union in April. Herdling's loan did not work out well, though, and he left the team before the loan's official end date.