Philadelphia Union Update

Philadelphia Union Update

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On September 30, 2009
  • Chester Stadium, Geoff Reid, Peter Nowak

Chester Stadium currently under construction. (Photo via Philadelphia Union)

Chester Stadium currently under construction. (Photo via Philadelphia Union)

Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan each week. Today he is back to discuss something that is very close to home, the soon to be expansion Philadelphia Union. Geoff lives just 15 minutes away from the new club. Feel free to leave Geoff your thoughts below.

With just under six months before Major League Soccer’s newest club takes the field in Seattle in the 2010 opener, I thought it be good to give an update on where my local club are in preparation. It doesn’t seem like that long ago, we had the official announcement on February 28th, 2008 in Chester, Pennsylvania. While I haven’t been down in the area all that long, I always had concerns about MLS putting a team in the Delaware Valley. At the time, I thought St. Louis would have been a much more viable option, however, since that point I can safely say I’ve jumped on the bandwagon.

The club’s owners right from the start seemed like they were up against it: economic downturn, trying to sell the idea of re-building a historic, but rundown city by having a team and stadium as it’s crown jewel in a complete redevelopment of the area to the local government and promising to be a success all at the same time. Needless to say they accomplished that first part.

The ownership also had to field questions regarding if they still had enough cash to pull everything off with one of them losing a big chunk of money a year ago when the stock market dropped. The rumors of FC Barcelona even coming in and taking a stake was discussed but nothing came about after the Catalans decided to pull out of the Miami bid. There was also talk of the Montreal Impact coming in 2010 and pushing Philadelphia back to 2011. The panic button could have easily been pushed, but the ownership has stuck to their guns and currently the only news coming out of the club is good news. Sure there has been hurdles to jump over since the planning officially began on February 28, 2008, but careful brainstorming in all aspects while making small tweaks to the big overall picture has shown the group knows exactly what they are doing.

Now the club has taken a look at what the Seattle Sounders have done so far to make them as successful as they’ve been both on the pitch and off it, however, what we must remember in Seattle’s case besides all the right things they have done of marketing the team. The Sounders came in at the best possible time with the local Basketball team being moved to Oklahoma and on top of that, the Mariners and Seahawks both having lousy seasons in 2008 which made the local area sports fans hungry for something positive.

In Philadelphia, it’s almost been the opposite with the Phillies winning the World Series last year, the Eagles making their usual run at the Superbowl and just falling short and the Flyers having as much hype around them as usual, it was always going to be difficult for the Union to get anybody’s attention. What the ownership realized what was very important was that:

  • There was already a supporters group who really have set the bar higher then any other group in convincing league headquarters that a their city deserves a club and will have support. The Sons Of Ben have just been tremendous and continue to grow with currently having over 5,000 members so far. The ownership understands their importance in putting this puzzle together by listening to the groups suggestions on an array of things such away supporters sections at Chester Stadium for example.
  • Understood that there is a massive youth soccer population in the area and at a very good level. Having watched a number of high school games last year and a few already this year, from first hand I can tell the level is high and the area’s top players going onto top division one colleges like Duke, Wake Forest, and Maryland amongst others shows that.
  • Another key point the club has done and this was only recently announced was that they have an official partnership with the Eagles. In this area, the Eagles are king so to have the most popular sports franchise in the area on board with the club is tremendous just as the Sounders and Seahawks have. For so long we’ve seen a lot of MLS originals have no relationship with any other local franchise. We’ve seen in New York that communications between the Red Bulls/MetroStars and the Giants have none whatsoever and same can be said for the Wizards and Chiefs in Kansas City, teams that have shared stadiums in the past. By partnering with the Eagles, not every Eagles season ticket holder will show interest in how the Union are doing, but it certainly can’t hurt the club and will raise more awareness which brings us to the next point: media exposure.

The local media has been both good and bad. You have your usual haters who say everything they can to take the sport down and singing the same old tune. John Gonzalez from the Philadelphia Inquirer a while ago on his daily “You Talkin’ To me?” Piece on page two of sports once said that he’s sure all seven soccer fans in the area would care about how the Union would do. Then you got your usual narrow minded sports talk radio hosts who will bash everything to do with our beautiful sport but that’s the same in almost every city across this country. However, the overall reaction and press has been mostly positive. It will take time to build the name and brand, but everything that has been done so far has been good. Whenever the club has been in the local news it has been positive whether it be partnering with youth organizations, helping out the Chester community, and finding new partnerships with local businesses and sponsorships.

Overall, the outlook is very good. The season tickets have been growing slowly and certainly if the club can reach it’s target of 15,000 then it will be a success. Currently, the club has just over 9,000. Of course if they exceed expectations, the stadium will be expandable from what I’ve been told. The kits have yet to be released but it’s pretty obvious that they will be dark or navy blue and gold combination by looking at the web site and the club badge. Some time closer to the end of the year we should expect to see the first images and hopefully a shirt sponsorship with any luck. Before we know it, the expansion draft will take place, then the Super Draft and eventually the 2010 season will kick off in March. These next few months are even more critical for the club to find the right pieces on the playing side, coaching and scouting to assist Peter Nowak, and the rest of the front office. So far at least, so good.