We have two new United Soccer League teams to announce, both with MLS ties: Bethlehem Steel FC will be owned and operated by Philadelphia Union, while Sporting KC will own and operate Swope Park Rangers FC.
That Philadelphia Union would be owning a new USL team in the Lehigh Valley isn’t news; the name is. Bethlehem Steel FC is the result of a public vote, as overwhelmingly chose to return the name of one of the early, groundbreaking American soccer teams. Dating back to 1907, the original Bethlehem Steel Soccer Club was a team that many considered the first American soccer team. Despite ending in 1930, Bethlehem Steel Soccer Club is still tied for the most U.S. Open Cup titles in the tournament´s 102-year history, winning in 1915, 1916, 1918, 1919 and 1926.
“We are thrilled by the strong fan interest in determining the name of our new USL team,” Philadelphia Union Chairman Jay Sugarman said. “We continue to believe in the deep history of this sport in our region and this is a tremendous way to pay homage to the past, while also reflecting the important role of the club in the Union family. Bethlehem Steel FC is the final piece of player development that creates a clear path to first team.”
The new Bethlehem Steel FC logo and colors pull elements from the Union’s identity and complement the rich history and soccer success in the area. The color scheme will sport Philadelphia Union blue and gold, along with red to reflect the original team.
The team logo consists of an elongated version of the original Bethlehem Steel Soccer Club crest, a historic ball to reflect the storied history of soccer in the area and rivets to symbolize the joining of the two clubs. The focal point of the logo consists of a snake coiled around the iconic Bethlehem steel beam to demonstrate the blending of the Union and Bethlehem Steel FC.
“The history expressed in the crest and colors come as a result of thoughtful deliberation and planning,” Chief Revenue Officer and Executive Vice President Dave Rowan said. “We believe that the logo, colors and name respectfully pay tribute to the original Bethlehem Steel Soccer Club, while also reflecting the modern influences that the Union provide.”
The new team will play at Goodman Stadium in Lehigh University.
In Kansas City, Swope Park Rangers KC is the USL’s 11th MLS-owned and operated club. Home matches will be played on the Championship Field at Swope Soccer Village. The nine-field, $20+ million complex has also hosted numerous championship events for the NCAA and Big 12 Conference.
“This is a great opportunity to fill in an important piece between the Sporting KC Academy and our senior team as part of the long-term vision for our organization,” Sporting Kansas City Manager and Technical Director Peter Vermes said. “The USL will offer a great level of play and the Swope Park Rangers will be a natural fit in our strategic philosophy around expanding and improving our player pool.”
“We are excited to welcome Sporting Kansas City and the Swope Park Rangers KC to the USL for the 2016 season,” USL President Jake Edwards said. “Sporting Kansas City is consistently one of the top organizations in MLS and has a fantastic locally-based ownership group that is committed to building the soccer culture throughout the Kansas City region. We expect that commitment to result in a highly successful club, playing in historic Swope Park, which will be embraced by local fans. We are also excited about the rivalry that we expect to develop between the Swope Park Rangers KC and Saint Louis FC, as we continue to grow the USL’s presence in the central U.S.”
The additions put USL at 29 teams for 2016 and 30 for 2017. Rio Grande, Orlando City B and FC Cincinnati will be joining Bethlehem Steel FC and Swope Park Rangers KC next season, with the unnamed Reno team arriving in 2017.