The Philadelphia Union II is reportedly leaving the USL Championship, leaving the future of the Union’s development squad’s competition format a question mark.
Phill Grooms reported Tuesday on Beautiful Game Network that the Philadelphia Union II, Portland Timbers 2 and Orlando City B are leaving the USL. Union II and Timbers 2 both are leaving USL Championship and Orlando City B are leaving USL League One, Grooms reported, citing multiple sources.
A Union spokesperson declined comment when asked about the report.
The news isn’t surprising given a host of reasons: financial losses because of Covid-19, league rules that require teams to have 12 players at a minimum signed to pro USL contracts, stadium requirements and more.
Since starting the Bethlehem Steel FC in 2016, the Union organization has clashed with the league over stadium requirements and finding a suitable home for their second team. Since Ernst Tanner took over as Sporting Director, the club has moved toward being strictly a development side that has put them at odds with the mission and ambitions of USL.
Though it’s not clear yet what form the Union II’s competition will take on — the talk has been that MLS is keen on forming their own reserve league — it’s clear that the Union will still maintain a development squad with the primary goal of exposing players 15-19 to a higher level of soccer than what is available at the academy level. MLS began operating the new MLS Next league for academy teams last month. The Union is one of a handful of MLS teams that isn’t fielding a U19 squad in the league, opting instead to push players up to play at a higher level.
After getting a week off following the end of the USL Championship season, Union II is back training this week in preparation for a series of friendlies against local and regional amateur squads.