14-year-old prodigy Cavan Sullivan officially signed a 4-year deal with the Philadelphia Union.
However, given the current state of the team, is the Union ready for the phenom?

Usually, the questions are reversed. A 14-year-old kid should be the one in question about making his pro debut. However, the Philadelphia Union is currently in a nosedive identity crisis.

At the moment, it needs to be asked if the Union is ready to provide growth to its once-in-a-lifetime talent.

Sullivan is the Real Deal

While the Aaronsons, Brenden, and Paxton set the standard for Union homegrown stars, Cavan Sullivan is on another level. At 14 years old, Sullivan was primed to be headed to European giants Manchester City. It was a shocking turn of events when Sullivan decided to stay home with his brother.

All that it took was the largest homegrown deal ever given in the history of the sport in this country. Sullivan is the real deal and has proven it in his rise through the Union’s academy system. After leading the Union Academy to multiple trophies, Sullivan will look to add to the Union’s thin trophy case before he heads off to stardom overseas.

The Union Are a Hot Mess

The Union’s current state is not pretty. For the first time in 12 years, it has suffered three consecutive home losses. The cushion the club had built early in the season has not only dissipated, but the Union now finds itself far off the top of the table.

However, the most concerning part of the poor form is the fact the team’s former stars have regressed ahead of schedule. Jacob Glesnes has been a shell of his former self, while Jack Elliot and Damion Lowe have not been up to par in picking up the slack. Andre Blake has been unable to play most of the games due to injury.  Simultaneously, Jose Martinez has been well below his standards. All of the regression on the defensive side of the ball has anchored the Union in 2024. While the offense has been putting together some of the best strings of attack fans have seen, it hasn’t mattered, as opposing teams can score at will against the club.

Consequentially, regression is not the only culprit. While the Union has slid backward, the rest of the league has sprung forward. Union’s management refusal to invest substantial money into the club at its peak is starting to be the club’s downfall. The Union, as always, is missing that superstar who can take over the game by himself.

Cavan Sullivan could be that player. However, by the time he makes his way into the first team, it may be too late.

Sullivan is Ready, Is the Union?

The biggest concern about Sullivan right now is if the first team is the right spot for him. As of right now, the answer may be no. Given the comments from players, coaches, and fans, there is a lot of tension in all phases of the club. It cannot be best for Sullivan to just get thrown into the fire.

However, once the dust starts to settle and the Union has a clear path forward, whether that path be a rebuild or continue pushing this core for a trophy, then Sullivan should start to break in. The timeline on the Union’s current path is unknown. If the summer transfer window comes and the Union is still tail spinning, perhaps the transfer of Julian Carranza will mark the start of a rebuild for the Union.

Nonetheless, the Union doesn’t have forever to figure it out. Once Sullivan turns 18, he is off to Manchester. While Sullivan will likely start slowly breaking into the first team this year, he has to be a focal point by no later than the start of next season. Not only do the coaches need to do right by Sullivan, but ownership needs to invest in him to spur his growth further.

The Union cannot mess up with Cavan Sullivan. While it is nearly impossible to do with his talent, the entire world is now watching. If the Union can successfully grow Cavan into the next phase of his game and push him to superstardom, the phone stays open for future talent. Other teams will look deeper into the Union’s academy for investing. On the other side, if the Union messes this up, not only will teams think twice before investing in the Union’s academy, but younger players will think twice as well.

At the end of the day, the Union has to sort out their form at the top level before Cavan Sullivan sniffs an MLS game.
Cavan Sullivan might not be able to save the current state of the Union, but he absolutely could be the face of the new era of the Philadelphia Union.

PHOTO: Wes Shepherd/PHLSportsNation

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