- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On November 16, 2009
- 0 Comments
- Geoff Reid
Things are coming along very nicely in Chester, PA currently for Major League Soccer’s newest expansion club. Since my last update back in September, the stadium has come on leaps and bounds with being close to 50% complete, open tryouts in New Jersey have just taken place, the home kit has just been shown to the public officially with the jerseys making their way to retail stores by the end of this week and the first three opponents of the Union have been announced.
By now, all 16 clubs know who they’ll be playing in their opening three fixtures during the 2010 season. The Philadelphia Union arguably have the toughest start out of any club kicking off the season at Quest Field against the Seattle Sounders FC followed by a nice trip to BMO Field in Toronto to face on TFC, two of the most intimidating atmosphere’s in MLS. The third match of the season will be the club’s home opener versus DC United, although it won’t take place at Chester Stadium, rather at Lincoln Financial Field or “the Linc” as it’s known in these parts, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. It still remains to be seen how many matches the Union will play at the Linc, not only because of the fixture list for the whole season hasn’t been announced after week three, but also the timetable on Chester Stadium nearing completion depends on how this coming winter will be like weather wise.
The hope would be for the exterior to be complete by the time it gets bitter cold so the interior can be finished. Of course sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Club President Tom Veit is convinced that the majority of home matches will be played in Chester, which makes sense because compared to Red Bull Arena, nowhere as much steel will be needed. If you compare it to Toyota Park when it broke ground in Bridgeview, to when the Chicago Fire opened it, it took less then 20 months to complete. Chester Stadium broke ground in December 2008 officially so either May or June 2010 should be a realistic target depending on the weather during this coming winter as mentioned earlier.
During Friday of last week, founding members were sent an email showing for the first time what the home kit will be. No real surprises here, the jersey is navy blue with a gold stripe down the middle and the three adidas stripes down the arm sleeves are gold as well. The club logo is right in the middle of the chest. We have yet to see the away kit, but all signs point to being the reversal in that the jersey will be gold with a blue stripe down the middle. The club’s front office did careful research here with the help of several different focus groups to make sure the brand was right, just as they had done with the name and logo previously.
This past Saturday was the first official open tryouts and they took place in Trenton, New Jersey while players who took part were evaluated by both Peter Nowak and newly hired assistant and youth academy director and former US National team assistant John Hackworth with local college coaches and former professionals help run the show. This tryout was the first of three that will take part in the area and ended up drawing more then 400 players. The next two tryouts will be December 5th and 6th on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Yours truly had even thought about trying out just to see the level and competition but after being a very average player at NCAA division three level at best, that just didn’t happen! Not to mention the last time I went through a full pre-season was in August of 2007.
Over the last two months there have been television commercials released and can be seen on the club web site when you first log on the homepage. Local rock radio station 94.1 WYSP have given the club exposure with Tom Veit being a guest on the morning show. In the areas main newspapers, you will get a small paragraph regarding the club if an announcement has been made, and it will be on the 5th or 6th page of the sports section at best which at the moment in a crowded sports market, during the NFL season and when the team hasn’t played an official match, you can’t really expect to get anything more then that.
Make no mistake, this will not be a similar situation like Seattle or Toronto. However, there is no reason as to why the Union can be at least the 4th most popular franchise in town to start with. The club has already sold more season tickets then the 76ers basketball team who’s own interest has dwindled the last couple of years. The cap for season tickets did change to 12,000 and I recently got a notification saying that the club are close to reaching that number and anyone who is still interested in getting season tickets should purchase them now before the cap is reached. Of course the cap could increase back to 15,000 again like it was a few months ago. We’re a little over 4 months away from the start of the 2010 season and with the expansion draft coming up next week, the Superdraft in Philadelphia in January, it wont be long now until Nowak’s Army will be taking the pitch in a bid to match the Sounders performance on the field this past season. Seattle showed making the playoffs in the first season of a club existence can be done if you get the right players, coaches, and front office team in place.
Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan each week. Feel free to leave him your thoughts and comments below.