In roughly three months the Philadelphia Union will kick off their inaugural season in MLS. Here are five things the Union will have to do in order to be successful in Philadelphia.
1. Physical Play: It's no secret that Philadelphia fans love physicality. Whether it's their love for the Broad Street Bullies or the local boxing scene, Philadelphians have always been privy to physical play, especially when it comes to their local teams.
The Union will have to play physically, especially on defense, to gain the respect of many Philadelphians. Should the team adopt more of flashy style, the Union could the appeal of physicality to the area, which, if the team isn't winning, could turn away many Philadelphia fans.
2. Bring in a Big Name: It's no secret that the casual soccer fan feeds off the big name. If the Union want to pull themselves out of lower ranks of Philadelphian support they'll have to bring in a big name.
Big names in soccer, especially in smaller soccer leagues drive fan numbers (see David Beckham's first season in LA). The Union will need a big name to keep Philadelphia interested past the inaugural season.
3. Strong Coaching: Philadelphians thrive on hard work. They'll need to see that in their team's manager to keep their interest. If the management shows they don't care, the fans will all but abandon the team (see the Phillies of the late 90s).
Peter Nowak has thus far proved a capable manager. He'll need to continue that in order to bring Union into the ranks of upper-fandom of Philadelphia.
4. Great Supporter Section: The Sons of Ben are one of the best supporter groups of soccer in the United States, in fact they were one of the best even when the city didn't have a professional team. The Sons of Ben will need to keep their enthusiasm up to help drive interest in the team up for the common Philadelphia fan.
A great supporter section elicits interest from the greater public which in turn helps bring about more support. The Sons of Ben have done a great job so far, and need to continue in their efforts to make Union as successful as possible.
5. Win: Union could forgo all of the aforementioned bullet points if they simply win. What city doesn't love winning? When a team is winning all is good. The sun is brighter, the sky is bluer, and all is well.
The Union need to win to keep the city's interest. A losing team, especially a team playing a sport that's not nearly as popular state-side as it is world-wide, will help eliminate interest from the Philadelphia non-soccer fan.
If the Union is able to accomplish these five points, there's no reason they can't rise through the ranks and become a Philadelphia fan favorite.
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