The return of Brendan Burke

Photo: Courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC

Rumors had been circulating for weeks. Since the Philadelphia Union announced plans to launch an expansion club in the ever expanding United Soccer League back in August, there was much speculation that a certain well regarded former Union assistant just might be in the running to lead the new club. Then on Wednesday, the Union put an end to the speculation with an announcement that brought a smile to many in the Blue and Gold nation.

Brendan Burke had returned to the Philadelphia Union family. The winningest coach in Reading United A.C.’s history was returning to the fold to lead the newly minted Bethlehem Steel FC. In a week that already had Union fans over the moon with the announcement that former U.S. Men’s National Team star Earnie Stewart had signed on as the organization’s first ever sporting director, the news that Burke was set to lead the Union’s USL affiliate was greeted with great excitement.

There’s no doubt that the Union have done remarkable job in reshaping the organization in the post-Sakiewicz era. So why is the naming of Brendan Burke such a positive for the Philadelphia Union organization?


There may not be another person in the entire Philadelphia Union organization that understands the club’s structure from top to bottom like Brendan Burke. From his six successful seasons in charge of Premier Development League affiliate Reading United, to his time at YSC as a coach of the Union Juniors and the Academy teams, through his three seasons on the technical staff of the first team, Burke has been immersed in all aspects of the organization.

Burke’s grasp of the club’s developmental structure will be a huge asset for not only Bethlehem Steel, but for the entire Union organization. With a clear path from the Academy to PPL Park now in place, Burke will be in a key position to influence future Philadelphia Union rosters.


If past is prologue, Bethlehem Steel fans can expect to see their new club play attractive, attacking soccer. During his time in Reading, Brendan Burke demanded that his team play the game “the right way.” The 2010 PDL Coach of the Year liked to play a high pressure, up tempo passing game, keeping the ball on the deck and PDL opposition on their heels.


Nearly fifty former players that played under Burke at Reading United now find themselves on the roster of a professional soccer team in the United States or in Europe. That number is sure to grow in 2016 with the likes of Keegan Rosenberry, Darius Madison, and Shane Campbell, three Union Academy products that featured for Burke’s 2013 Reading squad, all becoming draft eligible. All those Reading United alums are a testament to the amazing work Brendan Burke has accomplished in developing talented, young soccer players and helping them achieve their dreams of playing professional soccer.

Current Union goalkeeper John McCarthy credits Burke for helping him achieve his dream of playing professional soccer. “Everyday during the PDL season I was learning and getting better with him as my coach. He helped my teammates and I grow as players to give us the best opportunity to play at the professional level. Without Brendan, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Burke is an excellent teacher of the game. His unique ability to spot talent and nurture a player in a professional environment are one of the key reasons fans of the Philadelphia Union organization should be excited by the former Reading head coach’s appointment to the Bethlehem Steel post.

The Union have placed Burke in a position to bring the top Academy prospects to Bethlehem in order to guide them on their developmental path towards the Union first team by testing them in a competitive, professional environment.

In his press conference on Thursday, the new Steel boss stressed the importance of a veteran core for his new club. Look for Burke to draw from the large pool of former Reading United players currently plying their trade with other USL or NASL clubs to give his Bethlehem Steel side the veteran leadership needed to aid in the development of the younger members of the squad.

Winning mentality

Wherever Brendan Burke has coached, his teams win. He demands excellence from his squad. In training, Burke is always emphasizing proper technique, mental focus, and discipline. On the pitch, his squads are ruthlessly efficient, seizing control of a match in the early going and not relenting until the final whistle.

This is the reason Reading United amassed 71 wins over six seasons and never missed the playoffs with Brendan Burke at the helm.

When Burke leads Bethlehem Steel on to the pitch at Lehigh University’s Goodman Field next spring, fans can expect to see a team prepared to carry on the proud tradition of those dominant Steel teams from long ago.


  1. Good for our academy

  2. Alright…with all due respect to the current manager… who I do hope succeeds but have my well documented doubts… what is the over under of BB reigning 2 time USL Champion being named first team coach when the new Sporting Director sees BSFC play the exact style for which he sees the First Team?
    The over under set at (+/-) 3.5 years.

  3. He is an unprofessional guy, who skips from job to job when things get tough. He ruined the reading rage soccer club. He is a scum.

  4. “That number is sure to grow in 2016 with the likes of Keegan Rosenberry, Darius Madison, and Shane Campbell, three Union Academy products that featured for Burke’s 2013 Reading squad, all becoming draft eligible.”
    Somebody help me understand MLS’s bizarro rules. Why would the Union need to draft any of these players rather than sign them to homegrown player contracts?

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Isn’t is strange?

    • Allow me to clarify… The Union can certainly sign any of the three players mentioned. However, should the Union and these players not come to terms on a HG contract, they would all be eligible for the ’16 SuperDraft in Baltimore and all three would likely hear their names called on draft day.

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