Yesterday we took a look at the expansion situation in Vancouver. Today we thought we would take a look at how things are progressing in the City of Brother Love. Click here for our previous post on the Union. The team website is up and running and established ticket prices and season ticket benefits. The Union also have a name, a coach and sharp crest. According to reports, the Team has sold just under 10k season tickets and will cap tickets at around 15k seats in its inaugural season in its 18,500 seat home in Chester.
The Union has a strong supporters group in the Sons of Ben, who have been omnipresent over the last couple of years at an array of soccer events including the announcement of the Team, MLS Cup 2007 and even at a US Open Cup game in Connecticut between the Revs and Harrisburg, PA (about 2 hours from Philly). Its location between DC and New York should make for some good rivalry games that will bring supporters from out of town.
Yet there are doubts. Last weekend, the US National Team drew just over 31k at “the Linc” for a Gold Cup Quarterfinal. This was the first major soccer event in 4 decades in Philly and just months before the Union first kick. While some are lauding the attendance, there is a good argument that the number was disappointing. If soccer demand was so pent up in Philly, why weren’t more in attendance? Efforts to sell the game to Eagles season ticket holders were generally unsuccessful.
At the same time, progress on the Chester stadium is progressing slowly, and there was a recent statement from team officials that the Team might need to start its 2010 season on the road in order to ensure completion. Will people be willing to travel to Chester to see the games? There are also questions about how receptive Philly will be to a new soccer team. Philly is a crowded sports city and the best team in town happens to play in the summer. There is some major mainstream media opposition to soccer in the City of Brotherly Love.
Ultimately, we think Philly will succeed, especially in year one. However, we think it will be difficult for the Union to keep demand for season tickets in excess of 10k for long. A special confluence of factors have helped Seattle and Toronto succeed, none of which are present in Philly. We hope for the best, and do believe that Philly will be a relatively strong franchise over time. What do you think? Vote in our poll.