When word of a minor-league soccer team, based in the Lehigh Valley and affiliated with the Philadelphia Union, surfaced earlier in the week, I surmised that there were more questions than answers. Now, we’ve got some answers–sort of. Let me fill you in on what we know right now:
- The Lehigh University home is not permanent, but it could be. The Union have signed a “year-to-year” lease with Lehigh, which they could be happy with if they cannot find a location in which to build a soccer-specific stadium.
- The natural grass field at Goodman, and the Proximity to I-78 seem to be “good enough” for the Union if need be. It was impressive to see the field all lined out for soccer the other day at the media conference. They like the grass and the parking and the capacity. It seems they’d be OK there if a stadium project cannot be completed.
- We’ll see about the fans. This question cannot be answered until the soccer season gets underway in March, but given the previous success stories of major soccer matches and attendance figures at soccer games on the Lehigh campus, I’d say soccer fans will be OK with it, at least at first.
- The USL team will practice in Chester. It appears that the Lehigh Valley home for the team will be for games and promotions only, and training will occur alongside the MLS team at the PPL Park facility in Chester. They say this will promote movement between the teams and quality–so for now I’m hopeful for a competetive team.
- Harrisburg will be a rival. Reports suggest that Harrisburg will not go away. In fact, without the constraints of the MLS affiliation (for now) it appears that the state-capital-based USL franchise will concentrate even more on fielding a championship quality team. It feels like a Hershey Bears situation, kinda, no?
- You gotta think about the riverside location in Allentown. That tax zone is so appealing and is designed to help construction. It should be 1,2, and 3 on the list of potential locations for a soccer-specific facility. They’ll need some offices and parking, but as I mentioned above, practice and training will occur in Chester. A river view seems desirable, and would be within the zone. I’m hoping for natural grass, though, and not turf with the excuse that it’s “multi-purpose.”
- It does seem like they’re serious about soccer. As I said, the soccer set-up for the media conference was impressive. Plus, they have already mentioned the advantages of natural grass. Good stuff so far. One interesting note for those thinking of purchasing season tickets (I already put my deposit down): Matches at Lehigh will be daytime only, as the stadium is not equipped with lights. Thus, overlap with IronPigs will be reduced, and limited to Sunday afternoon conflicts. I wonder if SECTV will get involved?
- Team name to be chosen by “vote.” The Morning Call and the Union will have voting starting on September 8, where the public can “choose” the team name. With these things, I consider it more of a poll, as they’ll just pick what they want. It’s more “market research” but at least we’ll have some idea. I like the thought of “Bethlehem Steel FC” being re-used, but that may present some problems with trademarks and regional identification–especially if they end up playing in Allentown.
- Who knows about the concessions and the tickets? We’ll find out soon enough. I suppose tailgating will be an option, no?
- News about Reading and LV United to come, I suppose. The “development” affiliations, and any modifications thereof, will be updated going forward, in the offseason, I’m guessing. If at all. From a youth standpoint, I’d think the new Union USL franchise will want to tread carefully with LVU to avoid alienating other youth soccer organizations (and potential fans and groups) in the area.
More on Lehigh Valley soccer, to come.
Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level