When it came time to plan a watch party for the 2024 MLS SuperDraft Josh Jones knew right where he wanted to be, back at the club he played for and won three state cups with as a teenager: Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals.
“This club has elevated me to where I am today,” Jones said. “I couldn’t think of a better place to be to find out where I might be starting my professional career.”
Jones, a junior defender at the University of Louisville, and his family, friends, former coaches and former teammates packed the clubhouse at the Ukrainian American Sports Center in North Wales on Tuesday.
Rather than sit at home in his living room as many players watching along do, they brought a couch (Cardinal red) and set it up in the clubhouse to watch. The crowd waited through the Apple TV broadcast of the first round and followed the draft tracker on the screen waiting for the moment that came when it was announced that Real Salt Lake had drafted the Hatfield native with the 47th overall pick. A chant of “Joshy! Joshy!” erupted in the room when his name appeared on the screen.
“It was just a cool moment to come full circle to find out during the draft at the club where I set out a goal as a young kid to become a professional,” Jones said. “I built a lot of relationships over the years at the club and before that too. It’s great that a lot of these former teammates and coaches wanted to come out to support me. I don’t take that for granted, I’m so blessed to have these people in my life.”
Jones has been around the game his whole life. His father, DJ Jones (pictured far right below), Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer’s State Cup Manager, became the head coach of Temple women’s soccer when Josh was an infant.
“Growing up in the game of soccer it’s all I’ve ever known,” Jones said. “One of my earliest memories is running out at halftime or after the game kicking the ball around. It’s pretty cool to be in a position I am right now at 21 years old still playing the game I fell in love with at such a young age.”
Jones also played soccer and basketball at North Penn High School, winning a Class 4A state championship in soccer his junior year in 2019. His basketball coach, John Conrad (pictured third from left), and some of his basketball teammates were also at the draft party.
“It’s pretty cool I was able to experience high school basketball and just high school itself in general, which is a little different than a lot of the other players in the draft,” Jones said. “I have a good relationship with my high school basketball coach and I’m glad that he’s able to make it tonight; I know they have a game tonight so I knew it might be tough for him to be here.”
One of Josh’s first soccer coaches was also in attendance. Doug Johnson coached Josh in the recreation program at Montgomery United when he was a gangly kid in grade school.
“I was all about just making sure they had a good time and had fun playing soccer; I had no idea Josh would become the star he’s become,” Johnson said. “We’re all here because we love him. I wanted to be here just to wish him the best.”
One of Josh’s former club coaches, David Castellanos, played in MLS with Real Salt Lake’s head coach Pablo Mastroeni. They were teammates at the Colorado Rapids during the 2004 season.
“It’s a special day,” said Castellanos, who is the Ukies boys academy director and the head coach of the men's soccer program at Chestnut Hill College. “He’s in a position to do some great things. We’re excited for him and we’re going to support him through it but his work ethic and mentality for me is going to take him to the next level.”
Jones has a year of eligibility left at the University of Louisville so he’ll have a decision to make about starting his pro career in 2024 or returning to the Cardinals to play one final season of college soccer.