Behind the MLS Ambition Rankings: Philadelphia Union

Friday March 3rd, 2017

How much money has your team spent in the past five years on youth development? How much in the past year?

Youth development is a critical part of our organization and we continue to increase our investment in this area each year, spending a total of $20 million over the past five seasons, a figure representative of our commitment. We own and operate the YSC Academy, the first-of-its-kind soccer-specific high school. In its fourth academic year, the class of 2017 will be its third graduating class. We have 75 students enrolled full-time in the school, with most playing for the Philadelphia Union Academy.

From U-12 to U-18, the Philadelphia Union Academy is completely free of cost for players (the YSC Academy school is not free to all, but financial aid is available). Our comprehensive development program features a full-time Sport Scientist, Sport Psychologist, Athletic Development Trainer and a dedicated full time coach at each Academy age group. We have also recently created an innovative pre-academy program for Zone 1 children, which features scheduled multisport activity, the first club to do so.

How many homegrown players have you signed? How many have played in MLS league games for your first team?

At this moment we have two Homegrowns currently under contract with our first team: Auston Trusty and Derrick Jones. We expect both to make significant impact on the field in the near future. Besides them, we will have a total of about five Homegrowns (with contracts) playing for our USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC.

How many season-ticket holders do you have? How many did you have in 2016?

We have 10,000 season ticket holders this season and have already surpassed total revenue from season tickets (Full and Partial) from 2016. A great number of them have been with us from the start. New Season Ticket Members echo one big reason—they’ve been to a match and enjoyed the overall Union experience and want to be a part of it.  Another important reason is that we listen to our supporters. Our Fan Council helps guide and inspire our game presentation, plus we take to heart and respond to every letter or call from our supporters and always strive to create an extraordinary game experience.

Where does your first team train? Did you build the training facility yourself? If so, how much did it cost?

We train at the Power Training Complex in Chester, which is adjacent to our stadium and our offices. We did build the facility ourselves, putting in two Bermuda grass practice fields adjacent to Talen Energy Stadium. We also used what used to be the machine shop of the vintage power plant that has been turned into extraordinary Class A office space by our ownership, transforming it into a high-end 16,500 square foot training facility for the team. We kept the 1920’s brick façade and incorporated elements of the iron and brick interior like an 800-pound iron door to our locker room. Despite this vintage theming, the facility’s contents are absolutely state-of-the-art, including: an expansive weight training and exercise area, technologically advanced video theatee, players’ and coaches’ lockers and showers, a full weight area, a hydrotherapy suite, hot and cold tubs, an underwater treadmill, shower and infrared sauna.

Did your team build its own stadium? If yes, how much money did the team spend on the stadium?

Talen Energy Stadium was built in 2010 for our inaugural season and cost in excess of $120 million.

Do you have a USL affiliate? How big is your budget this year for your USL team?

Bethlehem Steel FC was founded prior to last season and has been a critical part of our “Path to the Pros,” an initiative that we believe in and allocate significant funds to. We signed two Homegrown Players last season, Derrick Jones and Auston Trusty, after they each made significant contributions with Steel FC.

How much money have you spent in the three previous years on Designated Players (transfer fees and salary)? How much are you spending on Designated Players this year?

We have recently increased our investiture in Designated Players through the high-profile acquisition of United States international Alejandro Bedoya, who came from Ligue 1 last summer. He is our second current DP, joining Maurice Edu.

How much TAM have you spent since its inception in the middle of 2015 (including this year)?

Since TAM has been a league mechanism, we have spent all of the TAM available to us. Examples of players acquired using this mechanism are Ilsinho, Roland Alberg, Jay Simpson and Haris Medunjanin.

How would you describe your investment in and use of data analytics? How many full-time analytics employees do you have?

We believe wholeheartedly in the value of analytics and how it can guide us in what we do. Our investment continues to grow and will be in six figures for the 2017 season, plus the personnel to evaluate it with our technical staff, to enhance our training and in-game performance. On the business side, we have two full-time analytics front office employees.

Who is your jersey sponsor? What’s your total income on sponsorships this season?

Bimbo is our jersey sponsor, a proud partner of ours that has been with us since the 2011 season. Our sponsorship revenue continues to grow as we have added 15 new sponsors this season alone.

Local TV deal: How many of your games this season are shown on local television? How much is your local TV deal worth per season? How big is your budget for presenting local TV broadcasts? Do your broadcasters travel on the road for local TV broadcasts?

All of our non-nationally televised matches are broadcast on local television, between 6abc, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia and The Comcast Network. Our broadcast team consists of the highly respected JP Dellacamera and Tommy Smyth, and while they do not travel for road matches, their quality is indicative of the priority we place on a good local broadcast experience for our fans.

How many front-office employees does your team have? How many have you added or subtracted in the past year?

We have 95 front office employees in 2017, which is 30 more than the previous year (65 in 2016).

What other sorts of details should we know about your club that are a good barometer of the club’s ambition? 

We believe that we should invest heavily in the American player and our Academy. Youth development is crucial for our club in creating a pipeline for soccer players to enter and achieve as they go through the Philadelphia Union system. Our goal is to have the very best system in MLS and rival other great clubs throughout the world. We are totally committed to building something very special. Ownership is committed to building this sustainable model and have poured their money, intellect and passion into it. We have a network of coaches and scouts who not only search for the very best in the talent-rich Greater Philadelphia Region, but we want to let young athletes know that wherever they come from, being a part of our Philadelphia Union Academy, they will be able to learn the game and grow in an extraordinary environment. Guided by an accomplished, internationally diverse technical staff, we are creating an amazing system that will give aspiring soccer players every opportunity to thrive and achieve their full potential.

On the business side, we create amazing relationships with our growing number of corporate partners. We take great pride in activating with them, to enable them to get the very most in return for every dollar they spend in support of Philadelphia Union. Many of them have been with us from the start and continue to renew their sponsorships because of that commitment we make every day. Our goal is to sell out Talen Energy Stadium for every match within five years.

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