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Bethlehem Steel FC acquires five additional international roster spots for 2019 season

Steel FC acquired the slots from Ottawa Fury, Loudoun United and Sacramento Republic FC

Philadelphia Union Sporting Director Ernst Tanner’s first team roster appears to be set for now, but he hasn’t finished making deals to reshape the second team roster.

Bethlehem Steel FC has acquired five additional international slots in cash deals with Ottawa Fury, Loudoun United and Sacramento Republic FC, the team announced on Friday afternoon.

The dollar amounts of the deals with the three teams was not disclosed, but it brings the number of available international spots for Steel FC to 12 for the 2019 season. Steel FC received two spots from D.C. United’s USL Championship, one from Ottawa and two from Sacramento.

The move is important not just for the USL Championship squad but also for the MLS team because the Union have the flexibility to carry more than the eight allotted spots on the first team by loaning additional internationals to Steel.

Tanner acknowledged on Thursday in a press conference that the most drastic changes in the team since his arrival last fall have come at Bethlehem Steel FC, which will be an even younger squad and will possibly be the youngest ever fielded in USL this season.

“We decided more or less not to rely on so called college players,” Tanner said Thursday. “Steel is for me is a feeder team that should be in the age range of 16-21 and that’s how we composed the roster. At the moment we’ve loaned out a number of foreign players to see how they are doing and also in order to see if they could help us with the Union in one to three years.”

Of the eight internationals on the roster, five are currently on loan deals and all have purchase options, according to Tanner.

Where previous Steel teams all included players either drafted by the Union in the SuperDraft or drafted by other teams out of college, this year’s roster has only two players 22 or older in Zach Zandi and James Chambers and just two players — Zandi and Issa Rayyan — who played college soccer.

The Union traded all five of their SuperDraft picks to FC Cincinnati for $150,000 in guaranteed allocation money and a possible additional $50,000 depending on performance metrics of the three players Cincinnati drafted with the picks. The move is the first of its kind in SuperDraft history.

This recent move is also unprecedented in the USL Championship, which only allowed trading of international slots for the first time last season.