Year founded: 2016
Affiliation: Philadelphia Union
2015 Record: N/A
2015 Playoffs: N/A
Key additions: Other than a whole team of players, Mickey Daly from Sacramento Republic FC, Samir Badr from OKC Energy and James Chambers look to be some big impact players for BSFC this season
Key losses: Ken Tribbett. Seriously. He looked good enough for the Union to snatch him up during the preseason, and now he is one half of the best Union back line in years.
Overview: Bethlehem are one of the new kids on the block for USL this year, along with five other teams who have decided to give the USL a go. Deciding that the Harrisburg City Islanders weren't making the grade as an affiliate club, the Philadelphia Union went ahead and made one of their own. However, instead of just going through the motions and slapping a "2" on their affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC tap into one of the richest histories in American soccer.
Throughout the branding and the process of forming a team there's been a few things noteworthy about Bethlehem Steel FC that might make them stand out. Every press conference had tones of change to it. Steel FC is going to change how the Philadelphia Union develop players, Steel FC is going to change the impact of soccer on Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, which is already home to the Flyers AHL club and the Phillies AAA team. Steel FC is the foundation for future Union players, but I wouldn't let that title imply that it will be easy to play against them this year. Preseason litmus tests against NYRB II, Syracuse University, and Georgetown University have BSFC looking like a bit of a force to be reckoned with. The midfield is fluid and monstrous, and the defense is a steel trap.
Why You Should Watch: There's a bunch of reasons to watch Bethlehem Steel in their first season but I'll say this, there's a lot of talent to be excited about. Given that loans are ad hoc in the USL , coach Brendan Burke can take whoever he wants when he wants them as long as they don't figure into big brother's starting roster. There's been some pleasant surprises in preseason games. Union draft pick Josh Yaro is proving why he plays center back and not defensive midfield. Eric Ayuk - another Union find - is playing some of the best soccer he's put out since arriving in the US last year. Ryan Richter is showing why he was such a high draft pick, and Mickey Daly is just as good as advertised when Steel acquired him from Sacramento Republic FC. If you like seeing guys before they have breakout seasons in MLS, watch Bethlehem this year. The games also stream for free on YouTube so there's no real good excuse not to watch the stars of the future.
3 Players to Watch:
Derrick Jones: He's tall, he's strong and he scores. The first signing in Bethlehem Steel history will probably do something every week that will be worth talking about. One of the most talented players to come out of the Philadelphia Union Academy can prove his worth for Steel FC.
Ryan Richter: He's a fifth overall draft pick in the 2011 SuperDraft by the Union, and has started 12 MLS games for Toronto FC. The captain of the club is a gamer, and should do well with his other defensive pairings to shutter any attacks coming his way. The former Ottawa Fury mainstay can really prove why he was picked so high back in 2011.
James Chambers: Consistently successful in the top flight of Irish soccer, Jambo has the experience and tools to make life torture for anyone that tries to come down the center of the midfield. Paired with Jones, the two are so strong and technically sound, they'll definitely take the ball from you, and might even find some lunch money in the process.
2016 Will be a Success if: I won't be greedy here, this is a competitive league and just because there's proven USL talent doesn't mean guaranteed USL success. 2016 will be a success for Steel FC if they can develop quality guys who can fit in to the Union first team in a year, I'll be impressed. In terms of USL related play, this very well could be a playoff team. Brendan Burke seems confident in his tactics and his players seem to be playing with a scary amount of understanding for a team that's been together as a unit for two months give or take. Steel will no doubt surprise some people, and just like their namesake they're going to look to forge quite the season in 2016.
Relevant links: For everything we've posted regarding Bethlehem Steel so far go here. Also, make sure to follow Bethlehem Steel on Facebook, on twitter, and on Instagram. While you're at it, how about also giving Derrick Jones, Ryan Richter, and James Chambers a twitter follow while you're there?