Expansion Update: Philly 2010

philly

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.

8 Responses

  1. philly will ultimately be no better then the revs in attendance but because of the stadium it will look better. good luck getting coverage on WiP

  2. I do not believe that the USMNT soccer game’s attendance is at all comparible to what the Union’s turn out will be. Had the real USMNT played I am sure a lot more people would have came to the game. Instead of our A or even B side, a C team was playing. I am a huge soccer fan and there is no way i was going to pay 50 dollars to watch a C team. The attendance has absolutly no baring on the health of soccer in the region or future of the Philadelphia Union.

  3. Union James is exactly correct. Seattle, which gets 32,000+ a game now for the Sounders, and over 65,000 for the friendly with Chelsea, drew only 21,000 for the USMNT match with Grenada, so extrapolating Union success at the box office with the attendance for a C-team Gold Cup game is silly.

    Also, if season ticket sales are at just under 10,000 now, with a full 8 months before next season, there is little doubt in my mind they will hit their cap of 15,000. Clearly, that many people will have already decided that they can make it out to Chester.

  4. Both Craig and Union James raise good points, and I certainly believe that the Union will have a strong inagural season. The Grenada game is an interesting data point, but perhaps not fully relevant. As Craig points out, Seattle has a variety of big time soccer events to choose from, allowing fans to “get their fill” of soccer. As of the Gold Cup, Philly had no such option.

    I feel that Seattle and Toronto have benefited from significant and quality press coverage, and I think that coverage goes a long way to generating interest.

    Do you believe that the Philly media will provide the same level of coverage?

  5. being from seattle, know that the press mainly responded to the fan support, not vice versa. yes, the times and the news tribune had regular articles leading up to it, but the explosion in season tickets coupled with plucky sounders marketing FORCED the media to cover it, because the town was buzzing. the “scarf seattle” idea was pure genius. and then media and fans both kind of rose up together into the behemoth it is today.

    and it’s not a curiosity. it’s real support. it will be like this for a long time. let’s hope the same for philly.

  6. If in fact Gold Cup attendance for USMNT is an indicator of soccer interest in an area (and I am not convinced that it is), I assume 20,000 of the 21,000 in Seattle were there for the USMNT. In Philly, there may have been 30,000 people there, but at least 20,000 were Honduras (not US) fans. So 20,000 in Seattle, but only 10,000 in Philly.

  7. Gene:

    That is not unfair. I disagree with the comparison a bit because (presumably) some of the Honduran fans in Philly would also support the Union.

  8. I have no idea how many of the Hondurans were from Philadelphia. But they certainly supported the US in the Panama game.

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