Say what you want about Philly fans in the various professional sports leagues but players know that we're passionate and knowledgeable about the games we love and the teams we love to support. Soccer in Philadelphia draws about 18,000 fans per game on average. The 76ers, one of what is considered "the big four sports" by contrast, draw 13,000 on average, in a larger venue. In fact, in the same venue as the 76ers, the Flyers draw around 19,000 average per game. This shows the relative popularity of the sport of soccer and the Union team in Philadelphia. It's right up there with long established teams in much larger leagues with more wide appeal across the nation. The River End is always packed with Sons of Ben supporters making life there miserable for opposing teams and making our guys proud. The fans are bought in. Now it's time for the ownership to step up.
First of all, the players deserve a world class training ground. Certainly there is room in the immediate area (much of it covered in blight) for such a facility that could potentially employ locals who are desperately in need to some income. Certainly this team, who has enjoyed more success than say, Toronto, despite having to train in a public park, has earned the right to practice at a world class training facility. Recent reports suggest that the Union owners know this and are working toward it. I applaud that and I only ask them to get it done quickly. Our boys work hard and they deserve the best available facilities.
Second, the fans of Philadelphia deserve an ownership that is willing to go out and sign quality players of high caliber. We love our players, don't get me wrong but we are savvy enough to understand the difference between Keon Daniel and Michael Bradley. We've gotten to watch some decent soccer here in Philly. The Union have really gotten a lot out of decent but maybe not top line players and we've had some excellent results. We have some young talent like Amobi Okugo on the back line and Jack McInerney up front who have stepped up but still have room to grow. Those players deserve to play along side of top players that make them better and the fans deserve to be able to watch top players play for us. It's time for the ownership to recognize the dedication of their fans and to respect their young players and bring in quality players to help them and to help this team get to the next level. In just four years, this team has already been to the playoffs once and but for a lengthy rough patch in the late run, might have made it again in 2013 despite having a team that, frankly, lacked big name stars and made amazing results with workhorse players and young talent. Do we need to go out and spend like drunken sailors as they seem to be doing in Toronto? No. But this ownership group, in this transfer session, has GOT to step up and buy, I think, 2 quality, top end Designated Players and 1 or 2 solid role players who can help to make this team a real challenger for the Open Cup and MLS Cup.
If these things happen, if the Union ownership steps out an makes these buys and builds a world class training ground, the fans who have in fairness, trickled away a bit since 2010, will storm back and I firmly believe that PPL Park will be sold out every game with season tickets being a hot commodity. In fact, making he right buys could result in real success and contention and actually add enough demand for the stadium size to be increased to accommodate the number of potential fans who would want to support the club. However, it's up to the ownership to recognize that the MLS is no longer the league it once was. You can only get by on 2nd level talent for so long. To get to the next level in the sport and in the profit margin, you have to be willing to spend some cash. The fans are here, dedicated and ready to do our part, the players are there, making strides and doing all that they can do, the question is, when will the ownership step up? Or, will they at all?