Tuesday, October 27, 2015
The fans and organization have spoken in the Lehigh Valley.
On Tuesday, the 2016 expansion USL side owned and operated by Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union unveiled its name, Bethlehem Steel FC, embracing the historic club moniker of the early 20th century.
During the unveiling at Artsquest at SteelStacks, Philadelphia Union part-owner Richie Graham expressed how the blue-collar working dynamic and soccer history made for a fitting match in naming the club the Steel.
“This location here is majestic and it’s incredible to think about the history and its role in helping industrialize America,” Graham said. “It’s also a region that is steeped in American soccer history, so as we look at this today, we feel we are blending the history of industry and soccer with a new professional soccer team, and a new member of the Philadelphia family.”
Touting a brand “forged in tradition and built for the future,” the Steel logo is emblematic of both the traditional club of the early 1900s and the current Philadelphia Union. The logo includes Steel red, mixed with the Union’s blue and gold, the Union snake and a leather soccer ball anchoring the bottom of the badge.
“Soccer emanates from communities and from neighborhoods, and there’s not a better way to start this franchise in an area that exudes neighborhoods and friends and family,” Union executive vice president and chief revenue officer Dave Rowan said. “My great grandfather worked in the steel mills behind us, and so many people have put in a lot of time and effort to make this city and this area remember the history of that. We are honored to be part of that to carry on that legacy at the Philadelphia Union and our franchise in the USL.”
Bethlehem Steel FC was best known for winning five crowns at the U.S. Open Cup, formerly known as the National Challenge Cup, while earning four of those titles during a five-year span. The five championships are tied for the most Open Cup titles with Maccabi Los Angeles.
Now the new USL side looks to reinvigorate those glory years as the team builds its roster for the 2016 season.
“Our job is to put a team on the field that represents the hard work and blue-collared nature of this town,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said at the unveiling. “We will play a high-pressured game, an in-you-face style, that attacks and is aggressive going for goal. The team will be assembled with a blend of first team players, so you will see our first-team players playing in this group, our top academy players will play here. We have the top academy in MLS right now. We are stetting the ground and paving the way in that regard. There will be a bunch of current rising stars in MLS. So it will be a blend of the three.”
With an industrial-like play in words and in the Philadelphia Union’s actions, Graham is excited to see the Steel play a big role toward building top-level players and a high-level club heading into 2016.
“As a club, we have made some significant investments in the manufacturing process of building the American player,” Graham said. “Our USL team here in the Lehigh Valley represents a critical step in the forging process, for it is here that the future stars of American soccer will be made. We’re very excited to be a part of that.”