Brenden Aaronson, Salzburg’s Champions League hero, has joined Leeds United

Brenden Aaronson, Salzburg’s Champions League hero, has joined Leeds United

Brenden Aaronson, Salzburg’s Champions League hero, has joined Leeds United

Brenden Aaronson, a 21-year-old rising American star, is heading to the English Premier League after a stratospheric rise to the renowned UEFA Champions League and the United States national team.

From humble origins in New Jersey and with the MLS’s Philadelphia Union, the explosive forward quickly rose through the ranks at RB Salzburg and the Austrian national team. After a speculated transfer fee of $30-$35 million, his achievements earned him a promotion to the world’s most famous league with Leeds United, where he signed a five-year contract.

Aaronson is a selfless, tireless worker who also adds quality. He is an attacking midfielder who can also play out wide. It’s a skill set that has attracted comparisons to Lionel Messi in some ways, and Aaronson’s nickname of “Medford Messi” has lingered with him for years.

Aaronson will be reunited with American manager Jesse Marsch, who coached him at RB Salzburg in 2021-21. Aaronson was acquired by Leeds United just days after the team achieved Premier League safety for the 2022-23 season.

Brenden Aaronson, a native of Medford, New Jersey, joined the Philadelphia Union’s youth programmed when he was 15 years old.


Aaronson’s moniker, “Medford Messi,” is a combination of his city and his aggressive midfield role. It began as a playful homage to the Argentine great, but it has evolved into something more than that.

Aaronson signed an amateur contract with Bethlehem Steel, now known as Philadelphia II, after initially committing to play collegiately for Indiana.

Aaronson made his senior debut for Philadelphia in the 2019 Major League Soccer season on March 18, starting and scoring in a 1-1 tie against Atlanta. That season, he made 28 appearances, scoring three goals and assisting on another.

After spending two years with the senior Philadelphia Union side, Aaronson earned a switch to Austrian club RB Salzburg in January of 2021. A fee of $6 million was paid, and Aaronson made the move to Europe.

Since then, Aaronson has been a key contributor for the Austrian side. He made 20 appearances in 2020-21, scoring five goals and assisting five more as RB Salzburg won the title. His contributions were critical, including two goals in a 3-1 win over third-placed Sturm Graz in the final month, plus a 90-minute performance in a 2-0 win over second-placed Rapid Vienna the following match.

This 2021-22 season saw Aaronson make 26 league appearances, and again prove vital to the team’s success en route to another Bundesliga title. He scored the equalizer in an eventual 2-1 win over Rapid Vienna in February, one of his four goals this season to go with five assists.


Aaronson also contributed to the team’s Champions League success, helping RB Salzburg through Group G and into the knockout stage, where he delivered an assist in the shock 1-1 first-leg draw with Bayern Munich in the Round of 16. He picked up an assist in the second leg, too, although the club was soundly beaten 7-1.

The Premier League club Leeds United was impressed by Aaronson’s breakout performances in Europe, and various sources have stated that the club has been trying to sign him for some time. It began in the winter of 2022, but with Champions League knockout stage play on the horizon, Salzburg refused such advances.

However, details of a transfer agreement were reached for a move in the summer of 2022 as long as Leeds maintained their Premier League status. It’s safe to say that relegation to the Championship would have ended any chance of Leeds spending big to get him.

After Jesse Marsch, an American and Aaronson’s former coach at RB Salzburg, was named Leeds manager, taking over for Marcelo Bielsa, the possibility of a Leeds transfer grew even stronger.

Then, on the penultimate day of the 2021-22 season, Leeds miraculously escaped relegation, allowing the Aaronson deal to take place. Tom Bogert of, who was the first to announce the $30 million transfer fee, also stated that the Philadelphia Union would get a portion of a $5 million sell-on clause.

Aaronson, who is only 21 years old, has quickly established himself as an important member of the US national team, and his importance will only grow in the weeks and months leading up to the World Cup.


Aaronson, who has 18 international caps and five goals for the United States, provides both width and creativity to the team. His on-field qualities are undeniable, but he also has a knack for making runs and showing up in the right place at the right time off the field.

Aaronson has had to earn his spot on the USMNT due to a dearth of talent in his position. Aaronson has recently shared time with the likes of Gio Reyna, Tim Weah, Paul Arriola, Jordan Morris, and Gyasi Zardes, among others, with Christian Pulisic a near-lock for the starting lineup.

In a 6-0 thumping of El Salvador in a 2020 friendly, the kid scored his first international goal and assisted on another goal. In September 2021, his goal earned a 1-1 tie with Canada in World Cup qualification, and three days later, he scored again in a 4-1 win over Honduras.

With Reyna still out with injury and Weah in and out of the Lille starting lineup, Aaronson is in a good position to help the USA advance from the group stage at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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