The North American Soccer League begins its sixth year with the kick-off of the spring 2016 season this weekend and while the closest team to our area is the New York Cosmos, there are a number of players with ties to the area to keep an eye on this season (several games are available to watch on ESPN3).
Jimmy Ockford, Defender, New York Cosmos
The Seattle Sounders FC defender is joining the Cosmos for a second time on loan this season. Union fans will remember his red card during an Open Cup match in Chester back in June 2014 and his MLS debut with the Sounders against the Union last June. The Bucks County native was a three-year letterwinner for Pennsbury High School who played college soccer at Mt. Saint Mary's and Louisville.
Steven Miller, Defender, Carolina RailHawks
The 26-year-old Elkins Park native is entering his first full season with the Railhawks after joining them on loan from Tulsa Roughnecks in USL last season. The Council Rock North grad played with FC Delco before going to Colgate for four years and spent two seasons with Jammerbugt FC in Denmark before stins with Wilmington and Tulsa in the USL.
Billy Schuler, Forward, Carolina RailHawks
The Hamilton, New Jersey native will be playing with his fifth team this season after stints with Whitecaps FC 2, San Jose Earthquakes and Hammarby IF and Nacka FF in Sweden. Schuler played four years of college soccer at North Carolina and spent a summer at Reading United in 2010. He played prep soccer at The Peddie School in Hightstown before joining the U.S. U17 residency program and graduating from Edison Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Duke Lacroix, Forward, Indy Eleven
The New Egypt, New Jersey native is entering his second season with Indy Eleven after 18 appearances and two goals in his rookie season. The former University of Penn standout also spent two summers in South Jersey playing for the Ocean City Nor'easters in the Premier Development League.
Jason Plumhoff, Forward, FC Edmonton
The German-born forward spent four years in Philadelphia playing college soccer for La Salle and spent summers playing in the PDL for Ocean City Nor'easters in 2012 and Reading United AC in 2013. He spent last season at Harrisburg City Islanders, netting 10 goals in 22 games.
Aaron Dennis, Forward, Miami FC
The Elmont, New York native played four years at Villanova University from 2011-14 and spent the summer before his senior year at Ocean City Nor'easters. He made seven appearances in the USL with Arizona United last season, scoring one goal and joined the expansion Miami FC for their inaugural season in January.
Michael Lahoud, Midfielder, New York Cosmos
The Union defensive midfielder is the latest to go to New York for a season after Leo Fernandes took that path to great success (in the NASL at least) last year.
Brian Sylvestre, Goalkeeper, Carolina RailHawks
Sylvestre made 12 appearances for the Union last season while on loan from the RailHawks and enters his second season in the NASL after two seasons with Harrisburg City Islanders.
Danny Cruz, Winger, Minnesota United FC
The former Union winger spent last season on loan with FK Bodø/Glimt in Norway after making 70 appearances for the U from 2012 to 2014. He joins a Minnesota club looking ahead to a move to MLS in 2018.
Greg Jordan, Midfielder, Minnesota United FC
Jordan spent two years with the Union after he was drafted 32nd overall in the MLS SuperDraft out of Creighton but never saw the field outside of 20 games on loan with Harrisburg City Islanders. He's found playing time easier to come by in Minnesota with 41 appearances over his first two seasons in the Twin Cities.
Gabriel Farfan, Defender, New York Cosmos
The former Union left back who made 51 appearances for the club from 2011-13 is on loan with New York Cosmos from Chiapas in Mexico.
José Kléberson, Midfielder, Fort Lauderdale Strikers
The 36-year-old only played 11 games for the Union on loan from Bahia in 2013 but his free kick goal facing the River End that Toronto FC goalkeeper Joe Bendik could only watch go into the back of the net will be remembered long after the former Brazil international hangs up his cleats for good.
Freddy Adu, Midfielder, Tampa Bay Rowdies
That name sounds familiar from somewhere.
Brian Holt, Goalkeeper, New York Cosmos
The former Union third stringer is entering his second season with the Cosmos after one appearance last year. In addition to the Union, Holt also spent a season with Harrisburg City Islanders in 2012, a summer with Reading United in 2011 and was a goalkeeper coach at Eastern University in 2013.
Alex Dixon, Winger, Jacksonville Armada
The former Houston Dynamo homegrown spent a summer with Reading United before his junior year at North Carolina in 2010. He joins the Armada after winning a USL championship with Rochester Rhinos last season.
Neil Shaffer, Midfielder, Indy Eleven
The western Pennsylvania native spent the last two seasons with Harrisburg City Islanders from 2014-15, making 19 appearances and scoring a goal.
Lucky Mkosana, Forward, New York Cosmos
The Zimbabwean is still a bit of a legend in Harrisburg for his goal-scoring exploits in two seasons from 2012-13, netting 20 goals in 41 matches. He's since played for the Tampa Bay Rowdies and enters his second season with the Cosmos.
Jon Busch, Goalkeeper, Indy Eleven
The 39-year-old keeper played for the Hershey Wildcats in the A-League all the way back in 2001 so is tie to the area is an obscure footnote on a long career that has included four stops and more than 300 appearances in Major League Soccer.