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USMNT defender McKenzie completes move to European football in $6 million Genk deal

15:50 GMT 07/01/2021
Higuain McKenzie Miami Philadelphia Union 2020
Philadelphia Union have sold their second young star in a matter of months following Brenden Aaronson's move to RB Salzburg

U.S. men's national team defender Mark McKenzie has completed his much-anticipated move to KRC Genk, Philadelphia Union announced on Thursday.

McKenzie will join the Belgian side for what the club called a "multi-million dollar fee", with the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting that fee as around $6 million (£4.4m).

However, it could rise with performance bonuses and Union will also have a sell-on fee, much like the one they have with Brenden Aaronson who was sold to RB Salzburg recently. 

McKenzie's move to Genk comes amid plenty of European interest, with Celtic being among the more active in their pursuit of the young American.

However, it is Genk who have won the race to sign the USMNT defender, who will now head to Belgium after emerging as a star during his three seasons in MLS.

“I’ve been able to coach and watch Mark develop first hand since he joined the Union Academy, and his trajectory since then has been nothing short of impressive,” said Union Head Coach Jim Curtin.

“Mark has been a reliable and skilled centre back, one of the best defenders in our league this year. His dedication to training, learning and drive to improve paired with his passion, moral grounding, and personality off the field, makes him an invaluable member of any team and locker room.

"He will most certainly be missed at the Union, but I am so proud of him and have no doubt Mark will excel with Genk."

McKenzie joined the Union academy at age 11, eventually signing on as a homegrown player in January 2018. He made his debut that April, and went on to make a total of 48 appearances for the club during his time.

This past season saw McKenzie take off, as he earned a Best XI selection after helping lift Union to the Supporters' Shield.

Internationally, McKenzie has earned two caps for the USMNT and looks set to be a part of the team's busy 2021 campaign that includes the CONCACAF Nations League, Gold Cup, Olympics and World Cup qualifying.

Genk currently sit second in the Belgian league, having last won the title in 2019.

The club has been a launching point for several of Europe's top stars in recent years, with Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Kalidou Koulibaly and Leon Bailey all featuring for the club before making the leap to bigger leagues.