United States U-20 international Joshua Wynder will join S.L. Benfica for a USL Championship-record transfer fee from hometown club Louisville City FC to take the next step in his bright young career. | Photo courtesy Zac Cahill / Louisville City FC
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Joshua Wynder is heading to one of Europe’s most historic clubs.
Louisville City FC announced on Thursday it had agreed terms with legendary Portuguese club S.L. Benfica on a seven-figure transfer deal – the highest commanded by a USL Championship player in league history – that will see Wynder head across the Atlantic this summer. Full terms of the transfer agreement were not disclosed.
“I’m very grateful to Louisville City for everything the club has done for me,” said Wynder. “It’s a dream come true to sign with Benfica, and I can’t wait to get started there. Although my career’s taking me overseas, I’ll always be proud of where I’m from and represent Louisville to the best of my ability.”
Wynder’s move follows a breakout few months for the 18-year-old Louisville native. In addition to his club duties with LouCity, the center back was a finalist for U.S. Soccer’s 2022 Young Male Player of the Year before receiving his first U.S. Men’s National Team call-up this spring.
Wynder is fresh off competing for the United States U-20 Men’s National Team as it reached the Quarterfinals of the FIFA Men’s U-20 World Cup in Argentina, making four starts in the side’s five games at the tournament. Wynder – who turned 18 years old on May 2 – also last week was named in the United States’ preliminary roster for this summer’s 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Wynder can be formally registered as a Benfica player July 1 when the transfer window opens.
“This is a proud moment for Louisville City, our youth academy and our community,” said LouCity Head Coach Danny Cruz. “We are going to miss seeing Josh in the locker room each day, but I could not be more proud of the path that he is on in his career. The type of person he is continues to stand out to me, and we look forward to watching him reach new heights to also become the best player he can be.
“We at Louisville City are committed to the progression of our academy players into the first team while maintaining the highest standard of winning. When I look at the alignment we have from ownership throughout the entire club, I firmly believe that we will continue to see talented young players emerge here.”
2022 USL Championship Young Player of the Year finalist Joshua Wynder received his first call-up to the senior United States Men's National Team in April. | Photo courtesy Arocha / Louisville City FC
A Louisville native, Wynder followed his older brother, Elijah, in graduating to the professional ranks from the LouCity Academy having first represented the club at the 2020 USL Academy Eastern Conference Event, a precursor to the current USL Academy Cup. Alongside sister club Racing Louisville FC, the nascent youth program — led by director Mario Sanchez — numbers more than 1,500 kids in purple and lavender, dreaming of following Wynder’s path.
After making his pro debut on July 14, 2021, Wynder became a regular LouCity starter in 2022. His performances throughout the campaign saw him earn nomination as a finalist for the USL Championship’s Young Player of the Year award as well as receive his first U.S. youth national team call-ups. He continued to prove a force in six league appearances this season, recording 16 clearances and 13 tackles.
“This transfer is a testament to the work that Joshua Wynder and Louisville City FC have put in over several years, and it shows what the USL’s developmental pathway can achieve,” said USL Championship President Jeremy Alumbaugh. “Josh came up through his local club – from USL Academy player, to First Team starter, to youth national team captain, to a senior men’s national team call-up, and now to a top European club. We expect more and more players across the country to emulate Josh’s trajectory and maximize the opportunities that USL provides.”
In Benfica – based in the Portuguese capital Lisbon – Wynder heads to a club known both for developing players and winning at the world’s highest levels.
Benfica last month secured its record 38th title in Primera Liga, Portugal’s First Division. The club holds 84 major trophies, with only Spanish giant Real Madrid having made more appearances in the UEFA Champions League.
“We are really proud of Josh and how much he has developed over the last few years,” said Mike Gartlan, Wynder’s agent and partner at ProSport Management. “The priority for Josh's next step was always to find a club that would help him to continue to develop as a person and player. It was a pleasure working with a like-minded club in Louisville to find a good fit for his next move. Benfica came with a great plan and their experience in developing young talent is second to none. Josh's future is bright, and we are excited to see where he goes from here.”