In an interview with The Morning Call, Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz revealed that the team is "looking to launch a minor league team next year."
Sakiewicz is eyeing Allentown and the Lehigh Valley as a possible host to the planned team.
"The Union has been awesome and we're looking to launch a minor league team next year and we're looking for a home for them. And the Allentown/Lehigh Valley area is an area we're looking at as well as others. The whole sport, in general, is growing and expanding."
The promise of a USL affiliate in the near future is an encouraging sign from a Union franchise that has struggled to develop players since its inception in 2010. The second team would allow the Union to give a look to dozens of new players, while also providing minutes for bench-ridden players on the senior roster.
Though the Union and the Harrisburg City Islanders have had a partnership for many years, it appears that their relationship has been strained. The Union are utilizing loans to Harrisburg far less than they have in recent years, leaving the Islanders incapable of fielding a full match-day roster at times. The Islanders are also facing a fight to save their team, relying on a hefty state grant to fund a new stadium. Skyline Sports Complex, which has been home to the Islanders since 2004, is a floating trash heap. If that grant falls through, it's unlikely that the USL will allow the team to remain in Harrisburg.
Even if the partnership were rosy as can be, a Union-owned second team allows for greater autonomy in player development. When the Union send players to Harrisburg, they put them in the hands of the City Islanders' technical staff hired by the City Islanders' front office. With U2, (name pending) the Union don't have to go through any outside organization to develop their players.
As always, money could put the brakes on the whole operation. It was rumored that the Union wanted to start a USL team this season, but the cost of the new training facility coupled with the present "financial troubles" restricted them from doing so. The mountain of expenses that the discussed USL team would create--USL franchise fee, stadium lease, team and technical staff salaries, to start--is surmountable, but it would be a large undertaking for a reportedly reeling Union organization.