Philadelphia will be well represented in Argentina for the upcoming U-20 World Cup thanks to two friends who have been teammates since they first started playing organized soccer and who both have big ambitions to represent the U.S. on home soil in 2026.
Quinn Sullivan and Brandan Craig will be key to the United States U-20 team’s chances in Argentina along with their Philadelphia Union teammate Jack McGlynn.
Their bond goes back earlier than either 19-year-old can clearly remember. Quinn’s parents - Brendan and Heike - both played at the University of Pennsylvania and Brandan’s parents - Andrew and Kristie - both played at Temple. Their paths crossed on the pitch at a very young age.
”It’s pretty crazy we’ve been playing together since we were three or four years old and now here we are at 19,” Craig said in a recent interview after training with the Union. “We’ve played at all the different levels together and have been through so many ups and downs along the way.”
Brandan is from the Morrell Park neighborhood and Quinn from Bridesburg but they came together initially at Lighthouse Soccer Club and played on teams together at Philadelphia Soccer Club and Fishtown Athletic Club before joining the Philadelphia Union Academy.
Born three weeks apart, they rose the ranks in the academy together, debuted around the same time with Philadelphia Union II and signed first team contracts on the same day in the fall of 2020.
”We’ve been pretty much side by side on the pitch for about 15 years now,” Sullivan said. “It’s really special and I know he’s gonna be behind me and have my back no matter what.”
Though both players come from soccer families and both have younger brothers in the Union Academy now, Sullivan didn’t initially dream of playing professional soccer. A talented baseball player, it wasn’t until he made the difficult choice to completely focus on soccer that it started to get real. Brandan, however, has only ever focused on soccer and has had a dream to play at the highest levels since his earliest days playing.
”I am getting to live the dream I had in my backyard when I was little,” Craig said. “But obviously I’m not there yet and I have to continue to work hard, grind and dedicate myself to getting better every day.”
U.S. U-20 head coach Mikey Varas said Brandan worked his way onto the team despite limited opportunities for first team minutes.
”Even though he hasn’t been accumulating minutes at the first team level he works really hard every day in training with the Union," Varas said. "He plays second team games and he's done everything possible to answer questions and he really fought his way onto this roster.”
Varas said all three of the Philadelphia Union players on the roster will be important to the team's success in Argentina.
Quinn (7) and Brandan (5) at the Concacaf U-20 Championships in 2022. Photo courtesy of Concacaf.com.
Quinn and Brandan both see the U-20 World Cup as they should, as a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of representing the U.S. at the full national team level at the 2026 FIFA World Cup. That Philadelphia will be a host city in 2026 would be an added bonus of that achievement.
”I always try to encompass the Philly grit in everything I do,” Sullivan said.
Coming from families so invested in the sport as Quinn and Brandan do has meant a lot of watchful eyes on them growing up, analyzing and critiquing their play from the sidelines.
”After games there is always talking about the game, breaking down certain plays and discussing them,” said Sullivan, whose grandfather Larry Sullivan was a longtime coach at Father Judge and Villanova and whose cousin Chris Albright played for the USMNT. “I wouldn’t say it’s put pressure on me so much as it’s been a joy being part of a family that loves the game so much.”
A constant through the years for both Quinn and Brandan has been their fathers near the corner flag watching the game intently and sharing their thoughts and wisdom on what they see.
”I don’t know that my dad was ever my coach but he was always there standing in the corner ready to give me advice,” Craig said. “And Quinn’s dad was the exact same way.”
Quinn and Brandan will both be looking to impress their parents, family members, hometown fans and everyone tuning is as they aim for glory in Argentina in the coming weeks.
The USA kicks off Group B play on Saturday, May 20 against Ecuador, faces Fiji on Tuesday, May 23 and closes the group stage vs. Slovakia on Friday, May 26. All three matches kick off at 2 p.m. ET and will be shown on FOX Sports and Telemundo platforms.