Union announces USL team

Photo: Chris Luczkowiak

Philadelphia Union announced on Wednesday it will own and operate a USL team beginning in the 2016 season.

The team will train in Chester at the Union’s training grounds and will play its home games in Bethlehem at Lehigh University’s 16,000-seat Goodman Stadium.

A fan vote to name of the team will run September 8-28 and will include four predetermined team names as well as a write-in option. The team’s colors and crest will be announced following the fan vote.

In the meanwhile, fans can place a $25 deposit for a season ticket at or by calling 1-844-LVUSL16.

Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz said in a statement, “This was a decision that we carefully studied and analyzed all possible options. In the end, we’ve chosen an extraordinarily great soccer community in the Lehigh Valley that is underserved for professional soccer. Combining our Club’s culture with this amazing soccer community and the spectacular venue that Goodman Stadium provides will create an incredible environment for the growing fan base in the Lehigh Valley. By adding a USL team we ensure that our players will compete at the highest level under MLS. It’s of the utmost importance that at every level of the Union organization we challenge our players with competition in the top professional environments.”

With the announcement, the Union-backed team will become the 27th USL franchise, joining FC Cincinnati and Rio Grande Valley FC in making their debut in 2016.

The Union are now the ninth MLS club to own a USL team. Orlando City has also said it plans to launch a Central Florida USL team in 2016.

Among the 24 teams already in the league are two Pennsylvania teams, the Harrisburg City Islanders, who were founded in 2003 and were the Union’s USL affiliate from 2010 through the 2015 season, and Pittsburgh Riverhounds, who were founded in 1998.

Soon after the Union announcement, the City Islanders announced it and the Union had mutually agreed to dissolve their partnership, one that was “the catalyst that developed further partnerships within the leagues and carved out the model as the growth to where the USL and MLS are at this time in history.”

We’ll have more on the Union’s USL Lehigh Valley team soon.


  1. Ok we need suggestions for write in candidates for the new name. How about the Phantom Iron Pigs.

    We all know whatever variation of Bethlehem Steel is going to win assuming the fix isn’t in already

    • it should just be BSFC and not marginalized to include everyone in the valley like the IP and Phantoms. was up at the stacks a few weeks ago. they’ve BSFC merch all over it. enough with the charade.

      other than that, great news. i’l be going up there for a few games for sure.

    • My vote is “Sak’s Ill Advised Soccer Club”.
      Just kidding, I hope it ends up Bethlehem Steel.

  2. I’ll admit that I will pick Bethlehem Steel when voting opens. I like how it connects to the area’s soccer history, and I think it would draw a lot better than something like Union-2 or another Union-related name. However, I’m willing to have an open mind about it and debate why it could be something else. Here are two things that I think will play into the decision:
    1) Is it a smart decision to call it “Bethlehem” as far as encouraging fan support and bringing in revenue (for the team itself, not for the Union organization)? Sure, most of us like the name here in Philly, but are people in Allentown or Easton in favor of it? We don’t really encounter that problem down here because we’re the dominant presence in our region. That’s not the case up there. I think it would be more akin to Minneapolis/St. Paul, and all of their teams choose to call themselves “Minnesota” to appeal to both cities. Maybe it really would be wiser to call it Lehigh Valley. Maybe it wouldn’t be, and they also like how it relates to history. We’d have to ask people living up there.
    2) Who is the voting actually open to? Is it anyone who wants to vote? Union season ticket holders? The Lehigh Valley population area? As much as I would like to take part in naming the club, I won’t be one of the people supporting it every week by going to games and buying their merchandise (not because I wouldn’t want to; it’s just simple logistics). I think the people living there deserve more of a say in the team than anyone else.

  3. Bethlehem Blue Steel Or Collective Bargaining Steel. Haha!

  4. Smokestack Lightning FC.
    ‘Ah Whoaaaooooo…..Smokestack Lightning’

  5. The Chopper says:

    U2…of course. Could be a trademark issue.

  6. I think the team name has to be Steel. Either Bethlehem Steel or Lehigh Valley Steel (to incorporate more of the region into the name).

  7. Old Soccer Coach says:

    the old club’s exact name plus the number 2.

  8. Allocation Money FC

  9. I wonder by what percentage of players having their own USL will deepen the talent pool particularly within the academy..
    I cannot stress enough how important having this team is going to be for the trajectory of this club.

    • And they better damn well be playing the same way. Find us the Sporting Director Mr Sakiewicz. Vision- check. Plan- Check Philosophy – ?.

      • Maybe those dark clouds are starting to move away?

      • I still don’t see elephant we’ve heard this all before. All I see is a new team being started that will lack organization structure and the money to compete. I mean would a USL team help players develop maybe but only if there was someone to teach them we have seen time and time again this is not the case with the Union and they do not develop talent well. Those that do develop leave for better options where they will get paid.

    • Jim Presti says:

      Infinitely important. Players can now move from the HS/Academy to either college or the USL team then to the first team. OR send first team players down for playing time, development, and rehab/fitness. I mentioned this on another thread, but see teams like LA, NYRB, Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. All teams reaping the benefits of having a USL team in their control that emulates their culture. I’m actually surprised FC Dallas doesn’t have its own USL squad considering their Academy is probably best in the league – now that Chivas is gone.

  10. Blue Steel Football Club.
    You could use Derek Zoolander as the poster image.
    In all seriousness, I’ll be voting for Bethlehem Steel. I love this move by the Union. It will give players like Catic (remember him) much needed playing time.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      At least he’s getting time with Carolina… but yeah, it will let us develop him, not just let another club let him play and stay in shape.

    • I have been really disappointed with how Catic has been shuttled around this season. For all the comments from the staff on how he played well in preseason, he has kind of been kicked to the curb all season. This team will be a big boost for draft picks and guys in the Academy/Homegrowns to FINALLY get some consistent playing time.

      P.S. It is Bethlehem Steel FC. With as close to the original crest as possible. Black/white/red. End of story. I would buy merch in a heartbeat.

    • It isn’t just about developing Catic, I just used him as an example. It is about developing a system. With ownership of the team comes the ability to develop and train these kids in a way the Union will play, with the hope they can one day advance to the show.

  11. James Lockerbie says:

    I love this for the reasons listed above. I think it might be time to hit the reset button on giving Sak a lot of crap. Unless they start making more head scratching moves, we should back off a little and see what is next on their to do list.

  12. As much as I like the Bethlehem Steel FC name, I would almost prefer Lehigh Valley Steel FC because it encompasses more of the region and follows the trend of other local team names. Plus, the video titles and press conference seem to indicate that it will be a Lehigh Valley team

  13. I would keep with the Union theme, and call the new team Lehigh Valley Local.

  14. section 114 says:

    Let’s name the team after its first player: The Bethlehem Mbolhis.

  15. el pachyderm says:

    1907 FC.
    The year Bethlehem Steel was founded.
    Similar to the Bundesliga club.

  16. el pachyderm says:

    Bethlehem was founded in 1741.
    Club 1741
    Bethlehem 1741

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