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Union hire Earnie Stewart as sporting director


The Philadelphia Union have kickstarted their offseason with a big-time hire.

Current AZ Alkmaar executive and former U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Earnie Stewart has been hired as the Union’s sporting director, the club announced Monday. The 46-year-old executive is set to join the club at the start of the new year.

Stewart, a U.S. Men’s National Team regular from 1990-2005 that was a part of three World Cup squads, played two seasons in MLS and captured the 2004 MLS Cup as a member of D.C. United.

Most recently, Stewart has held the title of Director of Football Affairs at AZ Alkmaar, which has reached the Europa League each of the past six seasons. Recently, Stewart and Alkmaar were recognized with the Rinus Michels Award for having the best youth academy in Holland.

“I am thrilled with the opportunity to come to the Philadelphia Union and help create a winning team which the fans can identify with,” Stewart said. “I look forward to working with everyone at the Union to establish a clear playing philosophy and use my experience to create a competitive edge in our methods of recruiting and developing players at all levels of the club, from the Academy up through the First Team.

“From the first moment I spoke with the Union about the direction they wanted to go I was excited about the long term opportunity and my ability to help execute on our shared vision.  I would like to thank AZ for giving me the chance to follow my ambition in coming back to the United States and I remain committed to fulfilling my duties here at AZ Alkmaar through the end of the year. I will work my hardest to hit the ground running for the Union and be ready for the important decisions the club will make entering the 2016 season.”

As sporting director, Stewart will oversee the club’s technical and soccer-related decisions while working to develop the club’s first team, academy and USL side.

The Union finished 2015 ninth in the Eastern Conference with just 37 points.

“In searching for a Sporting Director, we defined specific criteria we were looking for a candidate to fulfill,” Union owner Jay Sugarman said. “Earnie rated highly on all our key metrics. His understanding of the international soccer landscape and viewpoint on Major League Soccer, combined with his experience in player development and strong work ethic, make Earnie an excellent fit for this important role.

“Earnie’s long-term vision and desire to positively impact soccer in the United States aligns closely with our vision for the Philadelphia Union and we are excited to welcome him back to the USA and put him in a position to drive the Union to long term success.”

What do you think of the hire? What do you expect from Stewart and the Union next season?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Seems like a great hire for the Union. Certainly a learning curve with MLS, but it’s not completely foreign to him and he knows what he’s getting into so you assume that a bright guy like Ernie will bring on a #2 who is very familiar with MLS and all it’s odd rules and regs.

  2. This is a great hire for the Union…the Dutch system relies on younger players to carry the load sprinkled in with Veterans in key positions. MLS has a salary cap and the key to beating the salary cap is getting the most bang for your dollars–youth development is key to winning and this guy knows how to do it. Bring younger players up through the system and integrate them into the team as other guys become expensive and expendible…young players cost less and have something to play for (bigger aspirations/bigger contracts)…maybe with NYRB and Philly we see a change in MLS’s way of doing business.

    • The Dutch League isn’t exactly the EPL…I’m sure he’s getting a decent raise to come to the Union. MLS owners have deeper pockets than most European clubs.

      • Good point. I think this is an issue that is often overlooked by fans. What the wife wants can often drive family decisions, especially in the mobile world of sports.

  3. As a Union fan, I’m not sure this offseason could have started any better. I don’t think there was anyone mentioned in the search that I’d rather have in place than Earnie. Think it’ll probably take him some time to get reacquainted with the ins and outs of MLS, but have no doubt that he’s the right man for the job. We’re in a good place with the cap, we’ve got a decent core to work with (Barnetta, Chaco, Nogs, Edu, Marquez, Blake, Sapong, LeToux, Pfeffer) we’ve got a high draft pick, and we’re pretty high up in the allocation order, so for the first time in awhile, we should be able to actually make the most of an offseason. Here’s to hoping this junk show of a season gets put in the rearview and that we’re now on the way towards becoming a relevant MLS franchise.

    Sidebar – it’s interesting that with Sak in place, the search for a Sporting Director dragged on for nearly 18 months with basically zero movement. Sak gets the can and three weeks later we have arguably the best candidate imaginable signed and on the books. Things that make you go hmmmm…..

    • I’d be concerned at his lack of MLS experience, since he is being hired to GM and it’s important to understand those bells and whistles, but I think he is bright, understands the American player, has some contacts abroad, and has some cachet with his playing and professional history.

      One hire cannot suddenly make a development system awesome, it requires hiring the right coaches, finding the right players, spending some money, and I think you need a “II team” now to compete on level terms with LA and Seattle, who can basically farm U23s while controlling environment and approach. The development hubris I am hearing seems to assume just cause AZ had it, the Union will. It’s more than one personnel item, it’s a whole infrastructure.

      I also think without a coaching change it’s a middling result anyway.


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