Philadelphia Union will own and operate a USL team in Bethlehem starting in the 2016 season, the club announced today at a formal press conference at Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University. Plans for the newest USL team were announced by Union CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz, Lehigh University President John Simon and USL CEO and Managing Partner Alec Papadakis. The team’s name, crest and colors will be unveiled at a later date pending a fan vote.
“This is another landmark day in the short history of the Philadelphia Union,” Sakiewicz said. “This was a decision that we carefully studied and analyzed all possible options. In the end, we’ve chosen an extraordinarily great soccer community in the Lehigh Valley that is underserved for professional soccer. Combining our Club’s culture with this amazing soccer community and the spectacular venue that Goodman Stadium provides will create an incredible environment for the growing fan base in the Lehigh Valley. By adding a USL team we ensure that our players will compete at the highest level under MLS. It’s of the utmost importance that at every level of the Union organization we challenge our players with competition in the top professional environments.”
Lehigh Valley’s team will become the 27th in the United Soccer League. Currently there are 24 teams in USL with two more, FC Cincinnati and Rio Grande Valley FC, also set to join next season, which will be USL’s sixth. Philadelphia will also become the ninth MLS team to independently own and operate a USL club while 11 other MLS clubs have affiliations in the league.
“We are extremely pleased to add yet another ownership group that is experienced in operating highly successful professional sports franchises to the USL family. It’s an honor to return soccer to not only one of the most historic, but also vibrant and growing markets in the U.S.,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “With sophisticated ownership and the passionate sports fans of the Lehigh Valley, this club has the formula for major achievements on and off the field.”
The 2016 expansion team will play their home games at Goodman Stadium at Lehigh University. The 16,000-seat venue is currently home to Lehigh’s college football team and was the training camp home of the Philadelphia Eagles. Additional details about the club will be announced at a later date including the team’s name, crest and colors. Fans can vote on the team name through PhiladelphiaUnion.com and The Morning Call’s website, www.mcall.com.
Fans can put down a season ticket deposit for the 2016 season by calling 844-LVUSL16 or by visiting PhiladelphiaUnion.com/USL.