Philadelphia Union II is a professional soccer team based in Chester, Pennsylvania that competes in the MLS Next Pro league, the third division of American soccer. The team is owned by and operates as the reserve team of the Major League Soccer club Philadelphia Union.
Philadelphia Union II Youth Development System
At the time of this writing, there is no official academy/trial information for Philadelphia Union II. Please come back at a later date while we monitor this club or visit their parent club, Philadelphia Union by clicking here for more information.
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Since the United Soccer League and Major League Soccer formed a formal relationship in 2013, MLS teams began to develop and field their own third-tier teams. To bridge the gap between high school and professional soccer players, this project was created primarily to fill this void. When the Philadelphia Union sent out a survey to fans in June of 2015, they wanted to know if they wanted to play in the United States Soccer League. As a result of the Union’s poll results and orders, a new squad in the Lehigh Valley was formed and officially revealed on August 19, 2015. As a result of this announcement, the Union became the eighth MLS franchise to own and manage a USL team on its own. The announcement came at the same time when Penn FC (formerly Harrisburg City Islanders) announced that it was ending its connection with the USL team.
During a fan poll for a team name, “Bethlehem Steel FC” came out on top, paying homage to the team’s earlier incarnation in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the early twentieth century. For the Philadelphia Union, Bethlehem Steel FC would serve as a “missing link” in the pipeline for players moving from the YSC Academy to the first squad. On October 29, 2015, the club’s first head coach, former Union assistant coach, Brendan Burke, was hired. On December 3, 2015, Burke signed Derrick Jones, a player who had been developing at the Union Academy, as his first addition to the team.
First seasons (2016–2018)
For their inaugural season, Steel FC assembled an all-star team that included former USL stars Mickey Daly, Ryan Richter, and Bolu Akinyode, as well as Philadelphia Union draft picks Josh Yaro and Fabian Herbers (James Chambers, Cory Burke). Players from the Union and the YSC Academy would form the bulk of this team’s support. There were some encouraging moments in the team’s debut season, but they ultimately lost all 12 of their remaining matches.
US Soccer granted provisional Division II status to Steel FC on January 5, 2017, making 2017 the first season the Steel FC competed as a Division II team. The Steel continued to add players from the YSC Academy and other young players to their roster for the second season in a row. Seku Conneh and Cory Burke’s consistent goal-scoring helped Steel FC treble its win total, finish 8th in the Eastern Conference, and qualify for the playoffs for the first time in their long history.
Steel FC had their finest season yet in 2018 with a total of 50 points and 14 victories, setting a new record. After finishing sixth in the Eastern Conference, Steel FC defeated in-state rivals the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in their first playoff match. Steel FC made it all the way to the Conference Semi-Finals before losing to the eventual USL Champions, Louisville City FC, in the championship game.
Relocation and rebranding (2019–present)
For 2019, Bethlehem Steel will play at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania, which is the home of Steel’s MLS parent club and Steel’s MLS affiliate Philadelphia Union. The move was driven by the lack of stadium illumination at Goodman Stadium, which restricted scheduling options and was in violation of USL standards.
The team’s management office has vowed to keep looking for venues that match USL Championship qualifications for the 2020 season. The Bethlehem Steel were renamed Philadelphia Union II by the Philadelphia Union on December 12th, 2019, for the 2020 USL Championship season.
Colors and Badge
The name, crest, and colors of Bethlehem Steel FC were formally unveiled on October 27, 2015, in a ceremony held at the ArtsQuest at SteelStacks. As the name suggests, “Steel FC” is a nod to the old Bethlehem Steel Football Club, which competed between 1907 and 1930. There is a connection between the club’s name and the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which was formerly the second-largest steel producer in the United States. Lehigh Valley Steel SC, Lehigh Valley Blast, and Steel FC were the other three alternatives in a fan poll that ran from September 8 to September 28. In keeping with the colors of both the original Bethlehem Steel F.C. and the Philadelphia Union, Bethlehem Steel FC’s primary colors are navy blue and gold, with a dash of red.
Union’s new player development program and an expansion of the Union brand are represented by the team’s elongated crest. Its gold rivets represent the close ties between the Bethlehem and Philadelphia teams. Symbolically, the Union rattlesnake is a reference to Benjamin Franklin’s “Join, or Die” political cartoon, which appeared in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754. Bethlehem Steel F.C.’s crest features a red beam in the middle as a throwback to the club’s old design. First, the Philadelphia Union paid tribute to Bethlehem Steel F.C. by sponsoring a team in the United Soccer Leagues (USL). An updated Steel FC jersey was released in February 2013 with the Union emblem sublimated onto the front and the Steel FC jock tag sewn on the back. The crest took third place in the “2016 Primary Logo of the Year” category in 2016.
Subaru Park in Chester, which is also home to the Philadelphia Union, is where Philadelphia Union II plays home games. At Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem, they played three seasons.
Philadelphia Union II practices at the training fields next to Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Immediately upon the announcement that Bethlehem Steel FC will be created, a group of supporters gathered. The East End Army, a fan club formed largely on Facebook, has taken on the name of the official fan base. The “Forge” section of Goodman Stadium’s lower bowl is home to the East End Army, who cheer on the team. Golazo House, a pub in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, serves as the team’s official brewpub.
It is one of three USL teams in Pennsylvania, along with Penn FC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds, to play in the United Soccer League. Pennsylvania City Islanders and Riverhounds have been competing for the Keystone Derby Cup since the 2015 season. Bethlehem Steel FC has not been included in this competition since 2016.