Daily news roundups

Details on Union’s USL team, SoB board election nominees being accepted, more news

Photo: Chris Luczkowiak

Philadelphia Union

Union-backed Bethlehem USL side launched, Harrisburg partnership dissolved

It’s official: The Union have announced a yet to be named USL team that will play in Bethlehem at Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium beginning in 2016.

The deal to use Goodman Stadium is year-to-year, and Nick Sakiewicz said building a soccer specific stadium for the team is a possibility. “We’ll explore the opportunity to build a soccer-specific stadium. If we go through that effort and find we simply cannot get that done, this place is fantastic, so I think we’re winners either way.”

Interestingly, Allentown Morning Call notes, “Because there are no lights at Goodman Stadium, the new team’s games would have to be played in the daytime in a regular season that runs from late March through mid-September.”

Sakiewicz said of the players who will make up the team (and a huge thanks to Kevin Kinkead for posting a transcript at CBS Philly of Sakiewicz’s off the podium remarks),

It’s a huge component to our whole youth development system and a missing piece, really. It’s not just 4 or 5 guys (getting minutes now), it’s probably 24, or 25, or 27 guys. It’ll be a mix. There will be some older players on the team that will be more seasoned, kind of like player-coaches. The large majority will be under-23s, but professional players. There will be a sprinkling of academy players that are the very best, that have earned their right to be a professional. A handful of those guys will make up this roster.

While the team will train in Chester, it will have offices in the Lehigh Valley. Sakiewicz said of that and staffing,

Well, we’re going to hire a head coach and full professional coach. Timeline, obviously within the next seven months (laughs). That’s the timeline, when you’re just kicking off in 7 months, the timeline is yesterday. So we’re in that process, we’re interviewing, Jim [Curtin] is very much engaged in this process and the two of them will work side-by-side. Because when you think about it, between the Union and USL team, we’ll have well over 50 professional players in the catchment (area)…

Back office staff, probably six to 12 hires over next few days, few months, sell tickets, communications, marketing, sponsorship, all of that stuff. And then on the technical side, probably another half dozen people over between head coach, assistants, to kit man, trainers. That will be fully functional. They will be headquartered on the campus at PPL Park. They will train on the fields that we’ve built. The first team of course is moving into the annex building at the end of the year. The new staff will move into the stadium. They’ll have their own locker room, their own offices and all of that.

A fan vote that will run Sept. 8-28 will be used to determine the name of the club. Of course, just about everyone assumes or wants the name of the team to be Bethlehem Steel FC. Asked who owns the Bethlehem Steel trademark, Sakiewicz said,

Since the naming contest isn’t rolled out yet, I have to defer off of that question (laughs). We’re still in an analyzing stage. In the next ten days we’re gonna roll out this ‘name the team’ contest and I think we’ll be prepared to talk about names by the end of September. Like I said, I want to preserve the right of the fans to name the team.

Asked if he thought Bethlehem Steel FC was a viable name option, given the evident support for that name on social media, Sakiewicz said,

Yea, again we’re gonna leave it to the fans to name the team. I have my own theories on which name will win. But you never know, it’s going to be up to them, like we did with the Union. We didn’t think we were going to name the Union the Union until fans told us they wanted a team named the Union. So we’re following the same path. Don’t know where we’re gonna land, but the fans are going to tell us a lot.

Soon after the announcement in Bethlehem, the Harrisburg City Islanders announced it had mutually agreed with the Union to dissolve its partnership, which began in 2010. “We thank the Philadelphia Union for being a great partner,” City Islanders majority owner Eric Pettis said in a statement. “They were generous and helped us at a time we needed it. Last year was a great example of how well the partnership worked. Having their players as an integral part of our program, was a positive factor in our run to the Championship Final. The USL landscape is changing and we have mutually agreed to go our separate ways.”

The announcement from the City Islanders did not state when the partnership would end — immediately or at the end of the USL season — but Sakiewicz indicated it would be the later. Pointing to the upcoming friendly in Lancaster on August 31 (which, incidentally, is, as of this writing, not listed on the schedule on the Union website), Sakiewicz said, “[W]e’re going to fulfill our contract to the fullest with them through the end of this year and then launch this team in March of next year.”

Sakiewicz also said the Union decided to launch its own USL team “right around March.”

Reports on the Union and Harrisburg announcements at PSP, Philadelphia Union (announcement, photos), USL, MLSsoccer.com, Philly.com, Delco TimesUnion Tally, CBS PhillyCSN PhillyBrotherly GamePhiladelphia Business Journal, Allentown Morning Call (report, photos), Lehigh Valley Live, Lehigh Valley BusinessWFMZ, Lehigh UniversityPenn Live, WITF, Philly Sports NetworkSoccer AmericaEmpire of Soccer, MLS Multiplex, and the AP.

More Union news

Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference is scheduled for today at 12:30 pm.

Here’s the Forbes ranking we mentioned in Wednesday’s roundup of the most valuable teams in MLS based on revenue in 2014 (therefore, NYCFC and Orlando, both of which began MLS play this year, are not on the list). The report notes, “The average team is now worth $157 million, up 52% from when we last looked at the league two years ago.”

As we described on Wednesday, the Union come in at No. 11 on the new list in terms of value at $145 million, are tied with New England and Dallas at seventh in the league for revenue at $25 million, and are one of only eight clubs to turn a profit in 2014 at $2 million. In the 2013 list, the Union came in at No. 11 with a value of $90 million, were 13th in revenue at $21.4 million, and were ninth of ten clubs turning a profit at $1.1 million.

Speaking of money, SoccerBuzzer.com says Rais Mbolhi began trialing with Bolton Wanderers on Wednesday (and they use a lot of exclamation points saying so!). Bolton fansite RT33 says the same. ElGoual.com picks up on the Soccer Buzzer site (crappy Google translation here).

It’s official: Saturday’s game in Montreal, which will be the MLS debut of Didier Drogba, is sold out. In case you’re wondering, Edvin Jurisevic will be the ref for Saturday’s game.

The Examiner’s review of past Union seasons continues with looks at 2013 and 2014.

Sons of Ben

As mentioned in yesterday’s roundup, Sons of Ben: The Movie was released on DVD on Wednesday. If you haven’t read it, I wrote a review of the film that describes why you should own a copy. MLS Multiplex also has a review.

The Sons of Ben will be holding board elections Nov. 20-23. Open positions include treasurer and travel coordinator. Nominations are being accepted now and can be submitted through Sept. 15. A Q&A with the nominees will take place before the Union home game on Sept. 20.

On a personal note, PSP would like to wish Kelly Christine Delaney all the best as she steps down from the position of travel coordinator, a position she’s held since 2010. She’s been a good friend (and that surely won’t change).

Local

Harrisburg City Islanders defeated Toronto FC II 2-0 on the road on Wednesday, with Craig Foster and Brett Jankouskas splitting first and second half goals. Former Union man Chris Konopka was in goal for Toronto for the first half. The result sees Harrisburg in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Pittsburgh and a playoff spot, with seven games remaining in the regular season. Recap at USL.

Penn Live outlines the City Islanders’ need for a new stadium and has has a slideshow looking at stadiums around the USL.

At Philly.com, Jonathan Tannenwald has an interesting interview with former Philadelphia Independence owner David Halstead, who discusses the challenges he and the WPS faced and the reasons why the league ultimately folded.

Here’s a look at Drexel’s men’s team for 2015.

MLS

In Eastern Conference midweek play, third place Columbus (35 points) hosted seventh place NYCFC (28 points) to a 2-2 draw. Columbus scored first before coming back after a pair of goals from Kwadwo Poku. In the Western Conference,  visiting San Jose (seventh place, 32 points) massacred third place Kansas City (40 points) 5-0, giving Sporting their first home loss of 2015. Former Union man Shea Salinas assisted both of Cordell Cato’s goals. Chris Wondolowski also had a brace, making him the first player in league history to score at least 10 goals in six consecutive seasons and bringing his career tally with San Jose to 100 goals.

In CONCACAF Champions League play, DC defeated Árabe Unido 1-0 on the road in Panama City. Seattle came back to defeat Honduran Olimpio side 2-1 at home after trailing 1-0 in the 90th minute. After Seattle was awarded what would be the game-winning PK late in stoppage time, handbags followed. Next week’s game in Honduras should be fun.

The News Tribune reports, “Sounders midfielder Marco Pappa is free to rejoin the club after completing Major League Soccer’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. The club doesn’t plan much news or to make Pappa available soon, citing ongoing legal considerations.”

Sacramento Republic have hired a new technical director and an architect for their new stadium. At ASN, the many reasons why Sacramento should be the next MLS expansion team.

New York Cosmos chairman Seamus O’Brien talks to The Guardian about how the team will be the biggest soccer team in America. The answers are vague and and connected to things that have not yet happened, such as the team having a 25,000-seat stadium and the NASL approaching 20 teams, but might be boiled down to “because we’re not MLS.” Does anyone else find it interesting that there have been a series of articles in the British press in recent weeks concerning the NASL?

Speaking of NASL, Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva says he’s working to launch something called the Americas Champions League “with all of the teams playing from all the continents of America…Like the European Champions League, but with teams coming from South, Central and North America.” Good luck with that.

US

The USWNT defeated Costa Rica 7-2 in Wednesday night’s rain-interrupted game in Chattanooga.

While the USMNT roster for the upcoming September friendlies against Peru and Brazil won’t be announced until August 30, Jurgen Klinsmann has confirmed Tim Howard and DaMarcus Beasley will be on the roster.

The Guardian on why Gedion Zelalem being loaned to Rangers would be a good thing.

The US U-17s were defeated 4-2 by Russia in their opening game at the Vaclav Jezek Tournament in the Czech Republic on Tuesday. The face Slovenia today.

Elsewhere

From Reuters: “FIFA’s Task Force for Women’s Football has called for a target of 30 percent women’s participation in the governing body’s leading structures and top jobs.”

27 Comments

  1. el pachyderm says:

    NASL. NASL. NASL. NASL.

    • With the rise of the USL, the NASL will be dead in the water… There are 11 teams and half of them are trying to join MLS or their city will have an MLS team soon. If I’m an NASL owner, I’m immediately trying to join MLS or the USL and then work towards pro-rel from there

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        I would try for USL, repackage and divide into two leagues with inter league play. NASL joining would upgrade USL’s stadia, and the on field qualities are comparable, at least at the higher levels of USL. the potential for in-state derbies increases. Rhinos v Cosmos 4 times a season, like Pittsburgh and Harrisburg? Could be fun.
        .
        The potential for Promotion and relegation needs not only quality on the field but also less disparity of revenue streams, which means stadia. Bournemouth seat 11,000 and Fulham at Craven Cottage were also pretty small, so you can have diversity, but the range between Seattle in the Seahawks football stadium and Harrisburg on city island is not five to eight times each other but fifteen, and that with Seattle keeping the upper deck closed which they do most of the time.

      • Jim Presti says:

        I love the Cosmos, but they would be smart to join the USL and push for pro-rel. I understand that they don’t like how MLS runs single-entity owners, and I respect that, but they cannot compete with the market share and will inevitably fold.
        .
        As far as the venues go, if there is a big push to have two professional leagues with pro-rel, I imagine some of the USL teams will fold and those with large stadiums, great attendance, and MLS partnerships will succeed. With USL Bethlehem starting up in 2016, Harrisburg is doomed. Death sentence.

      • el pachyderm says:

        All good points gentlemen. I care not from whence the pressure comes just so long a viability exists…maybe the USL gets big enough that someday the idea of Union 2 relegating Union 1 would be totally absurd a la Barca A relegating Barca B..
        .
        Either way I stand by the need for MLS to get pressure from another league that will hopefully someday force it to allow worthy teams up and unworthy teams down.

  2. Pretty excited about the USL team in the Lehigh Valley. No lights is a bit of a disappointment for me. Just from the stand point night games would be easier for me to get too. That probably kills season tickets for me but I’ll be getting to as many games as possible

    • el pachyderm says:

      Smokin hot august games. Take it one thing at a time I guess maybe in 4 or 5 years with a sold season tix base they will move to own stadium.

    • I wouldn’t be shocked if a compromise was reached: instead of building a new stadium, the Union install lights at the existing stadium. That would be best/easiest for everyone.

      • your username is appropriate

      • big steel light poles. where can we get big steel light poles? timing is gonna suck for the start of the season but i’m sure they could get creative and have them installed later or the following season. crowdfunded would be an option.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        The Cubs at Wrigley used temporary at first, perhaps, after old man Wrigley was gone? Can’t recall. I’m too young to remember how Cincinnati did it for the very first night game at Crosley Field. Waite Hoyt used to talk about it but those chats were too long ago.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        I reveal my ingnorance of Lehigh University’s campus, are there non-university neighbors whose lives would be adversely affected by night games? Think not only light, noise and fireworks, but also traffic.

      • pragmatist says:

        If you were talking about 25,000 fans, there might be an issue. But you’re talking about a league average of 3,250 people.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_USL_season#Attendance
        .
        The community is more likely to benefit from money spent at and around the games than they are to be adversely affected by the nighttime events.

  3. Best GK news I’ve heard in while – Mbholi Trial in Bolton! May he make every save possible.

  4. Last thing to come out of the press conference:

    Fabhino has a green card.

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    Anyone else get a thing in their stomach when Sak laughed about the timeline being 7 months?!? Sporting Director/GM… anyone? The guy just can’t stick his foot in his mouth…

  6. Amobi ribeiro says:

    I find the forbes information maddening. This team continues to make a profit while their value continues to increase despite several missteps and an inferior product – a team that is consistently one of the worst in the league to comical effect at times. The disparity between team performance on the field and financial performance off the field only shows how strong of a market this is and how dedicated a fan base this is. Certatinly there are league variables that have increased the team value as well. Would it really hurt this team to not makee a profit and invest more in player salary to put a better product on the field? Spending a little more to put a consistent winner on the field would go along way to improving the team’s overall value to approach the top ranked teams on the forbes list in terms of team sponsorship fees, tv rights fees if more people watch a winning product and merchandise sales.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Are we sure that the profit isn’t all in unused allocation money?

    • Jim Presti says:

      Those Forbes numbers are very deceptive. The valuations and revenue numbers were before taxes, interest, amortization etc. They also include the value of the land, property, and buildings that they own. In my opinion, I would be willing to sacrifice 3-5 years of mediocre first team play if it meant that a large percentage of resources were used to develop the Academy and the USL squad/project. Look at Chivas’ or Dallas’ Academy, both are/were unbelievably great at pumping out young, effective talent. That’s what the union needs to do – without running a deficit! – to be successful in this league. Toss in smart cap spending and you can build a solid roster. No need to pay marquee DPs to be competitive. See Poku vs Lampard & Pirlo on NYCFC or take a quick look at Olsen’s DCU, Marsch’s NYRB, & Berhalter’s Columbus. They have a few stars, but their DPs aren’t making outrageous paychecks. They have solid depth and journeyman players and MOST IMPORTANTLY they have talented, effective, and contributing youth players.

      • Amobi ribeiro says:

        1. Mediocre is not accurate. They are bottom of the league. 2. Academies recruit talent from outside the region, easier to do with a winning product.
        3. All the teams at the top of the list have successful academies -Seattle and la more so than Dallas. Having an academy Does not make the union unique.
        4. Usl affiliation is again not unique to the union it is something that many of the top teams are already doing.
        5. If you write off lampard and Pirlo at this early stage then you have to consider Barnetta a flop, which I don’t.
        6. You conveniently left lag off your list. They are on another level than all of your scrappy homegrowns, journeymen and value conscious dps. Stop drinking the kool aid

  7. Union Nerd Bomb says:

    Bethlehem Steel as a trademark is registered only for the Steel Company (registration 1734217) for use with steel-related items, specifically:
    .
    coke by-products; namely, ammonia, ammonium sulphate, benzene cresol, naphthalene, phenol, sulfur, toluene and xylene for general industrial use. FIRST USE: 19310700. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19310700
    .
    coke and coke products; namely, coke, and coke breeze. FIRST USE: 19310700. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19310700
    .
    metal goods; namely, structural shapes, piling and bars, concrete reinforcing bars, metal pipe, rod and non-electric wire, billets, blooms and slabs, castings and forgings, plates, coated and uncoated sheet and strip, rails, railroad frogs and switches, tool steel, all made of ferrous metal. FIRST USE: 19310700. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19310700
    .
    house organs, calendars, and catalogs related to the steel industry. FIRST USE: 19310700. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19310700
    .
    educational services; namely, conducting seminars and training programs related to the steel industry. FIRST USE: 19840200. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19850818
    .
    engineering services. FIRST USE: 19310700. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19310700
    .
    It’s possible that there are pending registrations for soccer related uses.

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