Union

Union schedule: no weekend home games in prime time?

Two home games in three months. Not one weekend home game in prime time.

Gah.

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.

6 Comments

  1. As someone who’s had to drive to and from Widener University at all sorts of strange hours many times in the past for work, I can say there’s nothing to be afraid of when it comes to driving through, or parking in, Chester at night. However, I can also see why some suburban families might get freaked out at the notion of doing so if they’ve never done it before.

    Something that might be a bigger factor is that from a security perspective, it’s easier to keep an eye on the parking lot during the daytime than at night. How often have thousands of cars simultaneously descended upon and gathered in Chester for several hours in the past? While break-ins are unlikely, I can see why club management might be worried about some people having that false perception, especially for the first season or two. Once a couple of seasons have come and gone without incident, I think you’ll start seeing more night games scheduled.

    Living out between Lancaster and Harrisburg, I think all the afternoon games are great, though. It means I won’t be getting home at absurdly late times. I don’t know if the schedule’s been put together with suburbanites from Central PA and South Jersey who have a lengthy drive more in mind than those from nearby, but it looks like that might be part of it.

  2. Yep, I wonder the same thing, Ian, regarding who the schedule is built for. Good points. A schedule that’s tough for one person may also be great for someone else.

  3. The Union surveyed the season ticket holders and the late afternoon weekend games was the preferred choice by a wide majority.

  4. Yeah, that’s a pretty unhelpful schedule for your first season (or any season, for that matter)! Anyway, you have a great site, and I wish the Union well for their first season. Maybe one day this century NC will have an MLS team so we can play you :)

  5. Well, at least we get to train in N.C., Nick. You should check out the Feb. 13 friendly between the Union and UNC (Chapel Hill) — you know, provided it doesn’t snow again. ;)

  6. Thanks Dan, I will do!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*