Philadelphia Soccer Fans Finally Finding Their Niche

Phil Andrews@philandrewsWMCNCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2010

CHESTER, PA - SEPTEMBER 01: Philadelphia Union fans cheer after the game against Chivas de Guadalajara at PPL Park on September 1, 2010 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The Union won 1-0.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Why waste your time and money building a soccer specific stadium near Philadelphia? Professional soccer never has and never will survive in an area where the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies are king.

No, but it can certainly co-exist.

For as long as I have lived here in the Delaware Valley, that has always been the mantra: soccer sucks and no one cares.

News Flash! People do care and there is evidence that professional soccer can not only survive in Philadelphia, but also thrive, thanks in part to the sixteenth member of Major League Soccer (MLS) and the friendly confines of PPL Park.

Last night, the Philadelphia Union not only hosted, but beat one of the top club teams in the world, thanks to a 1-0 result over visiting Chivas de Guadalajara.

The Mexican side not only brought their attacking style of play, but also several hundred of their spirited fans, which only added to the electrifying atmosphere on this balmy summer night.

“Two things I hear when people walk in here [PPL Park],” said Union President Tom Veit. “Oh, what a great building and then oh, what a great atmosphere. You can’t build that, you can’t create that, it’s gotta be organic, its gotta happen when its right, especially in soccer, which is a sport where the passion of the fans help create the atmosphere.”

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In addition to last night’s game against Chivas de Guadalajara, the Union has played seven MLS Games at PPL Park so far this season, and emerged a 1-0 winner over Scottish club side Celtic.

Before the MLS announcement that the Union would join the league, there had been one U.S. Men’s National Team game played here in Philadelphia in 30 years.

Since the announcement, the city has hosted several Gold Cup games and the U.S. National team in their last match before departing to South Africa for World Cup 2010.

Oh, did I also fail to mention that the Union, in conjunction with the Philadelphia Eagles, helped put 54,000 fans in the stands at Lincoln Financial Field this summer for a 1-0 loss to English Premier League power house Manchester United?

“I don’t think any other MLS team has done this,” expressed Veit. “Within the first 120 days of the building being open we will have hosted two national team games, two friendlies with two of the top club teams in the world, we will have the league leading LA Galaxy coming in, theoretically we could have [David] Beckham, NY Redbull with Thierry Henry and we also have Villanova playing South Florida here.”

So, I guess it’s safe to say that PPL Park has exceeded Veit's expectations?

“If you had asked me what your dream was, this probably would have been it. You go in and hope for the best, plan for the worst and yet it has been all that we could have expected, especially from our fans but we still get up every day saying we still have a lot to do.”

Well, in addition to creating a slice of heaven for soccer fans here in the Delaware Valley, this 18,500 seat venue along the Delaware River has also created about 600 jobs for residents of Chester, Pa. and surrounding areas.


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