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A look at the state of the Union


It might be difficult to believe, but the Philadelphia Union will make its debut in less than four months.

Major League Soccer's 16th club will begin play in March in Seattle and while the Seattle Sounders set a new standard for expansion success, there are signs that Philadelphia could have similar success. No, I'm not talking on the field success just yet (the Union has yet to really put a team together), but rather off the field success in terms of fan support and all the other components that go into having a strong and healthy franchise.

Here is my piece on the Union for Yes, the Union still have a ways to go to be able to match the resounding success in Seattle, but there are definitely signs of good things coming from Philadelphia.

What do you think about the arrival of the Union? See the club being a hit? Excited for the rivalries that will be born? Looking forward to seeing what Peter Nowak can do with the club?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Ives, love the column – but hate the way you end it. The “questions” you pose to the readers in general are just irritating – I have this experience of reading the post, enjoying it, but then am left with the bitter taste in my mouth of the lame questions you pose at the end of it. Please, just end the post with: “Thoughts? Share them below.”

    (SBI-Mark, I pose the questions to spark debate and discussion, and that is generally what happens (at a greater rate than when there are no questions at the end). If you don’t like the questions at the end then make it your routine to stop reading after the next to last paragraph.)

  2. With the limited information I have, expansion draft, I believe the Union will be a disaster on the field. I also believe that attendance will continue to decline for most clubs, possibly even Seattle (people who show up). Does Garber have the time offered by expansion to ignore the product? I don’t think so.

  3. do you mean, perchance, “aggressiveness”? Anyway, who knows, they might be able to trade for Convey and negotiate a lower salary, then you could pair him with Salinas or Jeremiah White if he comes in. That’s a whole lotta aggressivity for your face right there.

  4. I am concerned on two fronts:
    1) I’ve heard the stadium construction has been slow going and they are at least beginning the season at lincoln financial field.
    2) Every new franchise in all sports claim to have stellar season ticket sales numbers leading up to the season—but those sales figures are self reported and its in their interest to inflate to generate the scarcity idea that its a hot ticket–see acj’s point

    I just worry and hope the team is not just posturing in the media–downplaying construction delays and inflating sales numbers. If the Frisco stadium is failing because it is too far from Dallas (in the nicest suburb imaginable) how is the chester stadium going to be different? Especially when the stadium is in one of the most impoverished/crime ridden suburbs of the city.

    I Hope my fears are unfounded and i’m just a pessimistic fool. Go Union.

    Who are we drafting with the first pick?

  5. I have a feeling the 4hr drive will be well worth it, and if there is some wishful thinking beyond just the union from myself, it would be if New Jersey and Philly are able to pack their stadiums that it might push DC to get backing for a stadium (hopefully they drop that crazy/insane, insane/crazy $180mil price tag)

  6. I don’t really see the Union being any sort of hit, but I think a solid mid table/conference team, which is respectable for an expansion team. I was shocked they didn’t pick Convey, but I geuss they couldn’t afford to gamble on a guy whose career has been on the downfall for 3 years and only has a modest chance of recovering before the World Cup. Still, I really would have liked to see Convey have some sort of resurgance, as he’s one of the few players who’s got the same aggressivity in the attack as Landon.

    I’ll be even more shocked if Union have an outstanding season but I expect them to be a side that could bite at the ankles of the bigger teams. Until 2011 anyways.

  7. I hope Philly sells out every game and has a measure of success on the field. It can only help the league. Despite my innate arrogance as a Sounders season ticket holder, I do wish that others could enjoy the kind of home atmosphere that Sounders enjoy. It would help the sport grow much more quickly.

  8. The article seems to be implying that they’re goign to come close to selling out of season tickets. Assuming they’re keeping the same ratio of individual to season ticket packages that Seattle did that would mean 14k season tickets and 6k individual match tickets. That kind of scarcity could mean they sell out for their whole first season.

    In Seattle one of the things that seemed to drive attendance was that tickets were sold out in advanced for the first 4 or 5 games. the fact that you needed to buy tickets a month in advance encouraged my non-season ticket holding friends to plan ahead and buy tickets in blocks. When there were tickets available people were more likely to change their plans to go since they figured they might not get another chance. Of course all of this assumes that there are enough people that are a little bit interested to give you that strong base. if they’re really on track to sell 14k+ season tickets that might be a safe bet.

  9. There’s a case for seattle’s soccer accomplishments being more impressive than what Chicago did. Chicago’s expansion year the league was three years old, so Chicago was competing against organizations that were themselves just getting off the ground. the league was also smaller, i believe there were 12 teams so they had fewer teams to beat. Seattle in contrast was competing against teams that had a decade to put an organization together. On top of that they were competing against a larger field.

    That said I’m a Seattle fan so I’m in no way impartial. Also we’re talking about which of two amazing accomplishments is better. I’m inclined to just say they’re both terrific and leave it at that.

  10. I, for one, an excited about the Union but chances are that their first year on the field will be much more like Toronto then Seattle. I hope that I’m wrong, but I think having been a successful USL franchise before making the jump to the big leagues was a significant advantage for Seattle. Also, I recall that they made there first signing way before they began MLS play. I can’t remember how much before, but I think way more then the 4 months out that the Union are now. Hence, they where beginning to build their roster way earlier then the Union. I could be wrong, but I think that is the same Seattle forward that the Union picked up in the expansion draft. Kind of ironic or something. But if there is one thing the Union surpass Seattle in its the stadium. Soccer specific and (god I hope) GRASS!!!

    Did someone say Mutiny? For some unknown reason I have a bit of a longing for that franchise. Something about Valderema, his pinpoint passing, and crazy hair makes me miss the early days of the MLS. But then again, I am a DC United fan wistfully remembering El Diablo, Diaz Arce, Armstrong, and a young, Moreno. Now that I live in NYC and am punished by having an energy drink masquerading as a football club, all that I really have are my memories of going to my beloved RFK stadium during the first couple of years of the league’s birth.

    BTW, ditto about Jimmy Conrad’s piece. It was beyond absurd.

  11. I’m excited that two soccer specific, brand new stadiums will be within 4 hours driving 70 mph minimum distance. I’ll be making my first MLS road trips for away games. I’m pumped for the ’09-’10 season. I’ll be in Philly when DC thrashes the Union, and I’ll be in NY when DC thrashes the Energy Drinks.

  12. Ives wrote:

    >>>>The former Tampa Bay Mutiny and New York MetroStars president has enjoyed off-field success with his previous two MLS teams, and he believes the combination of a soccer-hungry market, a new stadium, an already-established supporters group and a talent-laden area could produce a powerhouse club.<<<<

    What success are you talking about? One organization folded and the other has been a disaster since its inception. There seem to be many reasons for optimism about success in Philly, but Nick Sakiewicz's track record is not among them.

    (SBI-Tampa Bay actually did well in the beginning in terms of ticket sales and sponsorships in a tough market, but ultimately the owner didn't have the resources to handle running an MLS team. In New York, the MetroStars had its best spell during Sakiewicz's time in terms of sponsorship and success (from 2000 to 2004, he left in the summer of 05). His first year with the team was 2000, when the club had its best year, the team did as well as ever in terms of sales and sponsorships. He got a lot of flack for not delivering the stadium sooner (flack he caused by setting time limits on when it would get done, ala 60-90 days), but in the end he laid the groundwork for the Harrison deal getting done. Red Bull Arena wouldn't be built right now if not for the work Sakiewicz did.)

  13. I see Philadelphia situation more akin to Toronto’s then Seattle’s, both on and off the field. The Union will not be playing before 30k fans in their new stadium because it only holds 20k. They have not, to date, made any significant roster moves which would indicate they will be any more competitive than other earlier expansion teams like San Jose or Toronto (remember how everyone predicted that those teams would have good first years). Also, this ownership group does not have the DEEP pockets that Seattle ownership has that brought in a number of players (Montero, etc) on “loan”.

    I think Seattle, coming in from the USL and having access to the Seahawks marketing and FO personnel had a headstart on a team like the Union.

  14. I am really excited for this. Philly is a passionate sports city and they are overdue for a MLS franchise. And of course, adding another soccer specific stadium is a HUGE bonus. Can’t wait!

  15. OK I’m a RBNY fan and even I can’t help but correct you that the expansion success standard was set by Chicago when they won the “double” in theior inaugura lseason.

    seattle had a good show and put alot of butts on seats. But neverthless, Chicago set the standard in 98, not Seattle in 09.

  16. Hey Ives,

    Maybe I just missed it in your article but is their a number on how many season tickets have already been sold? Do you think they could beat Seattles attendance numbers (if stadium seating was available)?Hat the cockiness of new teams fans but love the success on and off the pitch these new teams are having.

  17. Great article Ives.

    You made a comment about at the rate they are selling tickets, it will be sold out.

    Any new update on the current amount of season tickets purchased?

  18. Great article, Ives. After reading it I’m convinced that Philly can be just as successful in 2010 as Seattle was this year.

    But on a side note, what’s Jimmy Conrad talking about with his post? Is he living in Fantasy Land? His ideas are so far fetched that I don’t think I can take anything he says seriously.

  19. Philly fans will get behind a team they can relate to. It’s just a matter of putting the right team together. Albeit, I think they’ll sell out the first handful of games. It’s just a matter of sustaining it.


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