The Philadelphia Union are an American professional soccer club based in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The Union compete in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the Eastern Conference. Founded on February 28, 2008, the club began playing in 2010 as an expansion team. The club's home stadium is Subaru Park, a soccer-specific stadium located in Chester, Pennsylvania on the banks of the Delaware River.
|Full name||Philadelphia Union|
|Short name||The U, The Union, Zolos, The Serpents|
|Founded||February 28, 2008|
|Head coach||Jim Curtin|
|League||Major League Soccer|
|2020||Eastern Conference: 2nd|
The Union is currently owned by Keystone Sports & Entertainment, with Jay Sugarman serving as majority owner and chairman of the club. Professional basketball player Kevin Durant also serves as a minority owner. The club's current head coach is Jim Curtin. Curtin has been coaching the Union since 2014. The Union finished as runners-up in the 2014, 2015 and 2018 U.S. Open Cup tournaments. The club lost to Seattle Sounders FC 3–1 in extra time in 2014, and to Sporting Kansas City 6–7 on penalties after a 1–1 draw in the 2015 edition. They lost 3–0 to the Houston Dynamo in the final of the 2018 edition. In 2020, Philadelphia secured the Supporters' Shield, winning the first title in the club's history.
Drive for expansionEdit
Despite being one of the ten largest metropolitan areas in the country and a top-five media market, the Philadelphia area was not represented when Major League Soccer kicked off in 1996. The first effort to bring soccer to the Delaware Valley commenced in 2001, when a group of investors attempted to bring an MLS franchise to Trenton, New Jersey. The centerpiece of their efforts was a $31 million soccer-specific stadium to be built across the street from the CURE Insurance Arena and with access to the under-construction NJ Transit River Line. "Union FC" was the intended name for the Trenton MLS team if it came to fruition. However, the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) held the right to block a franchise in Trenton, as it would infringe on their 75-mile competition-free zone.
Five years later, plans were in place to construct a 20,000-capacity stadium on the campus of Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. The stadium would serve as the home field for both an MLS expansion club and Rowan's football team. Ultimately, $100 million in state bonds to fund the stadium and various other improvements on the Rowan campus were dropped by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine. Shortly after the Rowan proposal fell through, Keystone Sports & Entertainment (the group that would eventually own the Union) looked at a site underneath the Commodore Barry Bridge in Chester to develop a soccer-specific stadium.
In 2007, the Sons of Ben supporter group formed to raise interest toward a Major League Soccer team in Philadelphia. They are credited with demonstrating to MLS an established fan base in the market.
Major League Soccer added Philadelphia as its sixteenth team on February 28, 2008. The finalization of the club was the result of a $47 million package approved by Delaware County politicians and Pennsylvania governor, Ed Rendell, that included the cost of Subaru Park and a major urban renewal project.
In December 2009, the Union added the Reading Rage youth soccer organization as their official minor league affiliate in the USL Premier Development League. As a result, the Rage were rebranded as "Reading United AC" with a new logo and colors for the 2010 PDL season. In the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, the Union selected forward Danny Mwanga from Oregon State University as the number one pick, as well as sixth and seventh picks Amobi Okugo from UCLA and Jack McInerney from the U.S. U-17 National Team in the first round. In March 2010, the Union signed an affiliation agreement with the Harrisburg City Islanders of the United Soccer League. And in January 2012, the Union formed their first international partnership with Deportivo Saprissa of the Costa Rican Primera División.
The Union played their inaugural game on March 25, 2010, in which they lost 2–0 to Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field. Sébastien Le Toux became the first player to score a goal for Philadelphia in their home opener on April 10, 2010, a 3–2 win over D.C. United at Lincoln Financial Field. The team again played Seattle Sounders FC for the first match at Subaru Park on June 27, 2010. Le Toux scored the Union's initial goal at the venue from a penalty kick, which was instrumental to their 3–1 victory. All 12,000 season ticket packages for 2010 were sold prior to this opener. At the end of the inaugural season the Union finished 7th in the Eastern Conference and 14th overall in the league with a record of 8–15–7 (W-L-T).
The Piotr Nowak era (2010–12)Edit
The Union picked up three players in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, most notably Zac MacMath, who was the fifth overall draft pick. On January 11, 2011, the Union acquired shirt sponsor Bimbo Bakeries USA. On January 20, Philadelphia introduced two new players: Colombians Faryd Mondragón (GK) and Carlos Valdés (D). Mondragón had recently come from playing with 1. FC Köln in the German Bundesliga, and has at least 50 caps with the Colombian national team. Valdés came from Independiente Santa Fe in the Colombian First Division, where he served as captain before coming to Philadelphia. The Union also signed during the summer transfer window US International Freddy Adu.
The team made a complete turnaround in the 2011 season, finishing 3rd in the Eastern Conference and 8th overall in the league with a record of 11–8–15 (W-L-T) scoring 44 goals and allowing 36. This marked the 1st time the Philadelphia Union qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Union had a stellar start of the season that saw them win 4 and only lost 1 of their first six league games. In the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs the Union lost the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference semi-finals 2–1 at home on October 30, 2011, with the 1st playoff Union goal coming from Sebastien Le Toux. The Union then lost the 2nd leg 1–0 on November 3, 2011, against the future MLS Cup finalist Houston Dynamo.
Nowak to Hackworth (2012–14)Edit
John Hackworth became the Unions' interim coach on June 13, 2012, receiving the role permanently on August 30, 2012. The Union finished their third season in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and fifteenth in MLS overall, with a record of 10–18–6 (W-L-T), scoring 37 goals and allowing 45. Antoine Hoppenot, who was selected in the third round of the 2012 Supplemental Draft, netted four goals within 817 minutes of play. Subaru Park, then known as PPL Park, was the site of the 2012 MLS All-Star Game in which the MLS All-Stars defeated Chelsea F.C., 3–2. The Union also made it to the semifinals of the 2012 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup after defeating the Rochester Rhinos 3–0 in the third round and winning against D.C. United on the road 2–1, after extra time, in the fourth round. They subsequently defeated the Harrisburg City Islanders, their main affiliate at the time, 5–2 in the quarterfinals.
The Union traded allocation money in order to take the first overall pick, which was used on goalkeeper and Jamaican international Andre Blake. They then traded down multiple times in order to select Coastal Carolina University midfielder Pedro Ribeiro. Other new, preseason acquisitions included Maurice Edu, French midfielder Vincent Nogueira, Argentinian midfielder Cristian Maidana, and former MLS Rookie of the Year defender Austin Berry. Despite these additions, the Union still languished in mediocrity, winning just two of their first 14 games, posting a record of 2–7–5 (W-L-T). On April 20, 2014, the Union traded forward Jack McInerney to the Montreal Impact for winger Andrew Wenger, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania native. Hackworth's coaching career with the Union ended on June 10, 2014.
Jim Curtin takes charge (2014–present)Edit
Although failing to make the playoffs, the Union reached the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup finals for the first time in the club's history. During the offseason, the club traded for forward C. J. Sapong from Sporting Kansas City. They also traded long time defensive midfielder Amobi Okugo to Orlando City SC. Other new preseason acquisitions included FC Nantes loanee Fernando Aristeguieta, S.L. Benfica loanee Steven Vitória, and free agent Cameroonian 18-year-old midfielder Eric Ayuk. During the 2015 MLS SuperDraft the Union drafted forward Dzenan Catic from Bosnia-Herzegovina, midfielder Eric Bird, and defender Raymond Lee. During the expansion draft, Orlando City SC drafted Philadelphia midfielder Pedro Ribeiro. Despite all the offseason transactions, the Union only registered one win in their first ten league games with a record of 1–6–3 (W-L-T).
During the 2015 summer transfer window, the Union traded longtime defender Sheanon Williams to the Houston Dynamo for allocation money, which they used to sign Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta on July 29, 2015. The club achieved a successful run in the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, earning a second consecutive appearance in the Open Cup final. This match took place against Sporting Kansas City, at Subaru Park on September 30, 2015.
In 2016, the Union would acquire Chris Pontius from D.C. United, Surinames midfielder Roland Alberg, and Brazilian right midfielder Ilsinho. They would also acquire U.S. international Alejandro Bedoya in the summer transfer window. The Union would also add key players from the 2016 MLS SuperDraft including Josh Yaro, Keegan Rosenberry, and Fabian Herbers. The 2016 season saw success from Goalkeeper Andre Blake who later would win the 2016 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Award. The Union were in constant playoff contention, however went 0–5–2(W-L-T) in the final 7 matches of the regular season. The Union would still reach the playoffs for only the 2nd time in team history, beating out New England Revolution on goal differential. The Union were beaten 3–1 in the Knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs by Toronto FC.
The Union were unable to build on their 2016 success, finishing with the same record but still missing the playoffs in 2017. Despite failing to make the playoffs, Curtin was announced to retain his head coach position for the 2018 season.
Ahead of the 2019 season, Union Sporting Director, Ernst Tanner, announced that Curtin would be retained for the upcoming season on a one-year extension. By July of that season, the Union reach first place in the Eastern Conference and hitting the club's best start to a season. This success lead to the club announcing Curtin signed a two-year contract extension, to remain head coach through the 2021 season.
The 2020 season was the most successful to date for the Union. Despite disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union reached the semi-final of the MLS is Back Tournament and went on to win their first trophy finishing top of the league standings and earning the 2020 Supporters' Shield. The team's performance over the season earned Curtin his first Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year Award. Winning the Supporter's Shield earned the Union their debut in the CONCACAF Champions League, where the Union earned their first international win against Deportivo Saprissa; a victory that marked Curtin's 100th win as head coach of the club.
Colors and badgeEdit
On May 11, 2009, the Philadelphia Union's name, crest, and colors were officially announced during a ceremony held at Philadelphia City Hall. "Union" alludes to the union of the Thirteen Colonies, of which Philadelphia was the first capital as well as the area's historic role with the labor movement. The name was chosen following a fan poll held between January 19, 2009, and February 6, 2009; the other three options were AC Philadelphia, SC Philadelphia, and Philadelphia City.
The Union's colors are navy blue and gold, representing the primary colors of the Continental Army's uniforms during the American Revolutionary War. The team's crest is circular, symbolizing unity. Its thirteen gold stars represent the original Thirteen Colonies, while the shield's contour derives from the Philadelphia coat of arms. The rattlesnake pays homage to the "Join, or Die" political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin that was featured in the 1754 Pennsylvania Gazette, and is also reminiscent of the Gadsden flag, another Revolutionary icon. The light blue in the middle of the crest is a tribute to the Sons of Ben, and is further derived from the civic flag of Philadelphia. Coincidentally, the navy blue, gold, and light blue colors of the Union are also the predominant colors in the state flags of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The team's secondary logo is a simplified version of the aforementioned design consisting of the blue shield with the rattlesnake, augmented with a gold border and a ribbon bearing the team's official motto: "jungite aut perite", a Latin translation of the phrase "join or die", which was also used in the 1754 Benjamin Franklin political cartoon mentioned above. The Philadelphia Union's name and colors also allude to the state's important role during the Civil War.
In February 2013, the team unveiled a third uniform that commemorated Bethlehem Steel F.C., one of the most successful early American soccer clubs. The kit was primarily black with white trim, featuring a sublimated Union emblem, and a Bethlehem Steel F.C. jock tag.
|Period||Kit manufacturer||Shirt sponsor||Sleeve sponsor|
The Union play most of their games at Subaru Park (formerly Talen Energy Stadium, and prior to that PPL Park), an 18,500-seat soccer-specific stadium located at the southwesterly corner of the Commodore Barry Bridge (U.S. Route 322). The structure was designed by Rossetti Architects and the ICON Venue Group, with the actual construction contracted to the Ardmore-based T.N. Ward Company. Subaru Park's design allows clear views of the Delaware River for approximately sixty percent of its spectators, and is the centerpiece of Chester's urban renewal process. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) worked with the city of Chester to ensure that construction activities did not impact the nearby parking facility which had been the site of the Wade Dump, a previously polluted Superfund site. The Union train at YSC Sports in Wayne, a community located 17 miles north of Chester.
In addition to Subaru Park, the Union also plays select games at Lincoln Financial Field, the home stadium of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and the NCAA's Temple University Owls football team. Prior to the completion of the then PPL Park, the Union played their home opener at Lincoln Financial Field on April 10, 2010, against D.C. United as well as their May 15 match against FC Dallas. Originally just scheduled to play only the home opener at Lincoln Financial Field, the second game was played there due to construction delays at Subaru Park. Lincoln Financial Field remains the team's secondary home, for matches with anticipated high attendances, such as a friendly against Manchester United, during their 2010 tour of North America. For the home opener, the team limited ticket sales to the lower bowl and club sections, totaling about 37,500 seats. On June 27, the Union officially opened their home with a 3–2 win over Seattle Sounders FC. Lincoln Financial Field also hosts international friendlies involving teams other than the Union; the most recent being Real Madrid against the Scottish Premier League's Celtic FC in August 2012. Celtic FC met with the Union in their first international friendly in July 2010.
The Philadelphia Union training fields are right outside Subaru Park; Chester, Pennsylvania. The training complex features 2 grass fields that were constructed in fall 2014. Prior to having dedicated training fields, the Union was practicing at a nearby municipal park called Chester Park or directly at Subaru Park.
In 2016, the Philadelphia Union opened a 16,500 square foot training facility and offices built in the former machine shop of the Chester Waterside Station of the Philadelphia Electric Company.
On August 19, 2015, the team announced that they would operate a reserve team in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania that will compete in the United Soccer League (USL) starting in 2016 with matches being played at Lehigh University's Goodman Stadium. As a part of the announcement, the Union agreed to dissolve their partnership with the Harrisburg City Islanders. On October 27, 2015, Bethlehem Steel FC's name, crest, and colors were officially announced during a ceremony held at the ArtsQuest at SteelStacks. "Steel FC" alludes to the historical Bethlehem Steel F.C. soccer club, which played from 1907 to 1930. The name was chosen following a fan poll held between September 8, 2015, and September 30, 2015. In December 2019, the Union announced that the Bethlehem Steel identity would be retired ahead of the 2020 season and the club would become known as Philadelphia Union II.
Philadelphia Union AcademyEdit
The Philadelphia Union operates an elite youth Academy training and competition program starting with the Under-9 age group and running through Under-17, after which players graduate to Union II, the Philadelphia Union's second team.
As for competition, the Union participates in MLS Next starting with the Under-13 age group. MLS Next is an elite North American youth soccer league organized, managed, and controlled by Major League Soccer. The league was launched in 2020. The Union's younger age groups from Under-9 through Under-12 participate in various regional leagues and tournaments, often playing one year up. The Union Academy teams train and compete in Wayne, Pennsylvania, as well as in Chester, Pennsylvania, home of Philadelphia Union's first team organization.
While the Union's competition rosters in MLS Next are composed of boys teams representing age groups Under-13 through Under-17, the Union Academy is unusual in that with many of its young players are competing with and even starting for the Union's USL Championship team, Union II. Widely considered one of the top youth academies affiliated with an MLS club, the Union Academy has seen success in tournaments both domestic and international.
The Union Academy sources talent internally through the Union Junior Academy, as well as externally through well-regarded local area programs such as FC Delco, Real Jersey FC, and The SWAG. Families have even been known to relocate to Pennsylvania to take advantage of the many benefits provided through the Union Academy such as admittance to the YSC Academy, a world class soccer training and college preparatory school that operates in an alliance with the Union Academy.
The Philadelphia Union Academy has produced numerous players for the Philadelphia Union, Union II, elite NCAA programs, and professional clubs across the world.
Between 70 and 80 of the Philadelphia Union Academy's players attend private school YSC Academy which was founded by Philadelphia Union investor Richie Graham in September 2013 as an innovative, first-of its-kind, soccer-specific school for elite soccer players from grades 6 through 12. The school has campuses in Wayne, Pennsylvania and at the Union's training complex in Chester, Pennsylvania and is designed for student-athletes who aspire to play professional-level soccer. YSC Academy's first graduating class was in 2015. A substantial portion of the school's graduates have gone on to play professionally for the Philadelphia Union and other teams, with the balance going to college.
Grassroots support was instrumental to the founding of the Philadelphia Union and the construction of Subaru Park. This backing came in the form of a supporters group known as the Sons of Ben, which was founded in January 2007. The Sons of Ben petitioned Major League Soccer to expand to the Philadelphia market until the official expansion announcement was made in January 2008. Named for Founding Father and Philadelphia icon, Benjamin Franklin, the group was included in the expansion press conference, singing their anthem, "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover", and closing the event by presenting scarves to the ownership group. They were also present on May 11, 2009, for the naming ceremony at City Hall.
While the Sons of Ben are the predominant and official supporters group, smaller supporters groups also exist. These include the Tammany Saints (sections 101 and 133), the IllegitimateS (section 133), the Corner Creeps (section 134), the Bridge Crew (sections 120–121), La Union Latina (section 114), and The Keystone State Ultras (section 140).
The Philadelphia Union's primary rival is D.C. United. These rivalries exist primarily because of geographical proximity and the traditional animosities between the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. in other professional sports leagues. The Union has a smaller rivalry with the New York Red Bulls due primarily to geographical proximity. Harrison, New Jersey, where the Red Bulls play, is roughly a 90-mile drive from Center City, Philadelphia. The Union also have a bit of a rivalry with Seattle Sounders FC despite the 2,377 miles (3,825 km) between Philadelphia and Seattle. The cross-country feud started when the Philadelphia Union played its inaugural MLS game in Seattle. It continued when Subaru Park's first-ever home game pitted the club against Seattle. The rivalry culminated as they were regularly compared to the 2009 expansion Sounders FC during their inaugural 2010 season as noted by defender Danny Califf, "Last year there was all this measuring of us against Seattle in their inaugural year, so maybe it created a bit more of a rivalry. They're a good team coming in here, and after the start they had they'd really like to take it to us."
- Figures correct as of February 8, 2020. Includes all competitive matches
M = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost;
|New York Red Bulls||32||10||9||13||31.25%|
|New York City FC||12||3||1||8||25.00%|
On January 11, 2011, the Philadelphia Union announced a four-year agreement with Bimbo Bakeries USA to be its official jersey sponsor. The company's U.S. headquarters is located in the Philadelphia suburb of Horsham, thus providing local and global exposure to the team. It was also announced that Bimbo will be the official bread and baked goods partner of both the Union and Major League Soccer, as well as an overall league sponsor.
The sponsorship deal is valued at about $12 million.
Bimbo and the Union agreed in 2014 to renew their sponsorship arrangement for five years at an annual value of $2.3 million.
As of the 2018 season, WPHL-TV and WPVI-TV are the main English-language television broadcasters for Union matches not carried by Major League Soccer's national media partners, with JP Dellacamera on play-by-play. The broadcasts are produced by WPVI, and part of the package is aired by the station. Prior to the 2018 season, CSN Philadelphia (now NBC Sports Philadelphia) produced the games for 6ABC, removing the NBC peacock from its graphics.
During the 2012 MLS season, seventeen select home and road matches were broadcast on radio by WIP. The Union also collaborated with WIP on a weekly hour-long soccer show. Beginning with the MLS is Back Tournament in July 2020, the Union moved to WDAS.
- As of September 28, 2021
|1||GK||Matt Freese (HG)||United States|
|2||DF||Matthew Real (HG)||United States|
|7||FW||Matheus Davó (on loan from Corinthians)||Brazil|
|10||MF||Jamiro Monteiro (DP)||Cape Verde|
|11||MF||Alejandro Bedoya (Captain)||United States|
|12||GK||Joe Bendik||United States|
|13||MF||Cole Turner (HG)||United States|
|16||MF||Jack McGlynn (HG)||United States|
|21||MF||Anthony Fontana (HG)||United States|
|26||DF||Nathan Harriel (HG)||United States|
|30||MF||Paxten Aaronson (HG)||United States|
|31||MF||Leon Flach||United States|
|33||MF||Quinn Sullivan (HG)||United States|
|34||MF||Brandan Craig (HG)||United States|
Out on loanEdit
|14||FW||Jack de Vries (HG; on loan to Venezia)||United States|
|24||MF||Matej Oravec (on loan to Podbrezová)||Slovakia|
- As of March 2, 2020
|Head coach||Jim Curtin||United States|
|Technical director||Chris Albright||United States|
|Assistant coach||Frank Leicht||Germany|
|Assistant coach||Pat Noonan||United States|
|Director of goalkeeping||Phil Wheddon||United States|
|Head athletic trainer||Paul Rushing||United States|
|Team coordinator||Josh Gros||United States|
|Sporting director||Ernst Tanner||Germany|
|Academy director||Tommy Wilson||Scotland|
This list includes all those who have managed the club since 2010, when the club joined Major League Soccer for the first time, whether coaching on a full-time or interim basis. Games played include all League, Cup, Playoff, and the win percentage is calculated from the total of games.
- As of February 8, 2020. Includes all competitive matches
M = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost;
|Piotr Nowak||Poland||May 28, 2009 – June 13, 2012||78||22||32||24||28.21%||–|
|John Hackworth||United States||June 13, 2012 – June 10, 2014||77||25||20||32||32.47%||Interim coach through August 30, 2012|
|Jim Curtin||United States||June 10, 2014 – present||215||83||50||82||38.60%||interim coach through November 7, 2014|
Keystone Sports & Entertainment (S&E) owns the Philadelphia Union and Bethlehem Steel FC. Jay Sugarman, (CEO) of iStar Financial, leads this group including Christopher F. Buccini, Robert Buccini, and David B. Pollin – co-founders of the Buccini/Pollin Group; Joseph J. Greco, chairman of the RevSpring technology company and president of Premier Management Services; and David Seltzer, principal and co-founder of the Mercator financial advisors. Nick Sakiewicz was the former CEO and investor in Keystone S&E until October 3, 2015, when Sugarman purchased his shares in the club and discontinued his involvement. His termination was primarily due to his strained relationship with the Union's fanbase, which blamed Sakiewicz for the team's mediocre record.
On June 15, 2020, it was announced that basketball player Kevin Durant had become an investor and community partner for the club, purchasing five percent of the club with potentially another five percent in the near future.
Honors and achievementsEdit
Major League Soccer
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Union. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Philadelphia Union seasons.
|Season||League||Position||Playoffs||USOC||Continental / Other||Average
|2018||MLS||34||15||14||5||49||50||−1||50||1.47||6th||11th||R1||RU||16,518|| Cory Burke
MLS is Back Tournament
^ 1. Avg. Attendance include statistics from league matches only.
^ 2. Top Goalscorer(s) includes all goals scored in League, MLS Cup Playoffs, U.S. Open Cup, MLS is Back Tournament, CONCACAF Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, and other competitive continental matches.
|CONCACAF Champions League||2021||Round of 16||Deportivo Saprissa||4–0||1–0||5–0|
|Quarter-finals||Atlanta United FC||1–1||3–0||4–1|
- As of November 10, 2020 (all competitive matches)
|1||Sébastien Le Toux||2010–2011
Bold signifies current Union player
Other player recordsEdit
- As of May 11, 2019
Includes all league, cup, and playoffs matches.
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- Includes Major League Soccer, MLS Cup Playoffs, MLS is Back Tournament, U.S. Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League and Leagues Cup matches
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