Two home games in three months. Not one weekend home game in prime time.
Philadelphia Union will start the season in a way that probably should earn the team the nickname of Wanderers or Rovers, instead of the Snakes that I’d been thinking of them as. They’ll go to Seattle, Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Houston, Chicago, and Kansas City before they play their third home game on June 27.
Of course, those long road trips make sense. That third home game will be the first at the Union’s new stadium (affectionately known here as the Stadium of Power and Light). Front-loading the Union’s schedule with road games allows the league minimize the number of games it plays at Lincoln Financial Field, which in turn lets the club maximize profits through playing in its own house, where it keeps all the revenue. But it also means local fans only get to see the team live twice in those first three months before making up for it in the season’s second half.
But more importantly –
What’s up with all the late afternoon games?
Every weekend home game starts between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., all but one on Saturdays. That can cause havoc for those ticket-holders who play in Saturday leagues. (Yep, you guessed it: I’m in a Saturday league.)
No other MLS club has a schedule this geared toward the daylight. The other east coast teams – D.C. United, New York Red Bull and New England Revolution – each play more than two-thirds their home games at night.
It’s as if Union officials specifically requested that start times take place before dusk, so drivers still have light to guide them to the stadium, in case they get lost. Maybe they’re trying to limit the number of nighttime drives through Chester that may scare some suburban families not used to the downtrodden city. (Personally, I don’t think it’s that bad, but I’m not everyone.)
But for some ticket-holders, this presents a tough choice: Play soccer, or watch soccer. Nothing against the Union, but actually performing the sport should win out every time, on principle. I expected to see my Saturdays start by playing soccer, then by watching it. But not a single weekend home game in prime time? Not even one? (We get three mid-week games in prime time, but that’s it.)
So I have mixed feelings about this whole schedule release, which coincidentally came the same day my friends and I picked our seats. The Union have done tons of things right early on, both big and small. (And credit to the smart and friendly Union saleswoman who sorted out our ticket snafu seamlessly.) Local Saturday leagues will surely do what they can to work with the Union’s schedule, but there’s no way you can do that for everyone who wants to get both their local league and Union game in on their Saturday.
In the end, the opportunity to play will probably win out. So if you need a ticket to some weekend games, this season ticket-holder may have some games to give away — very, very reluctantly.
What do you think about the schedule? Do you prefer the Saturday afternoon games, or would you like a few weekend night games mixed in? Do you think Chester’s urban decay is part of the reason, and does that make the afternoon schedule a good one in your mind? Or is it something else? Weigh in below.