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Reading United A.C. kicks off the 2016 season with player meet and greet

The Philadelphia Union's PDL affiliate starts their 21st season in the Lehigh Valley.

A Reading United player signs a young fan's jersey at the team's annual meet and greet event.
A Reading United player signs a young fan's jersey at the team's annual meet and greet event.
Dave Musante / Brotherly Game

Reading, Pennsylvania has a long history of developing minor league talent into professional major league caliber players. The Reading Fightin Phils are in the middle of their 50th season with the Philadelphia Phillies, and more recently the Reading Royals of the East Coast Hockey League joined forces with the Philadelphia Flyers. Most people do not realize that another minor league franchise has been sending players to the professional ranks at a greater rate than either of the two previously mentioned teams since 1995.

Twenty one seasons ago, the Reading Rage began what would become Reading United A.C. Reading United is the official PDL affiliate of the Philadelphia Union, a distinction it has held since 2010. According to team President and General Manager Art Auchenbach, Reading United has sent 50 players to play at a professional level all over the world in that time. Most recently, Reading United alum Keegan Rosenberry was drafted with the third overall selection in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft by the Philadelphia Union. It is a record of success that is hard to match in the PDL and Reading minor league sports scene.

With the 2016 season upon us, Reading United A.C. held their annual player meet and greet for the local fans and team supporters Monday night. The DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Reading served as the perfect backdrop for the traditional season kickoff event. Players had a chance to meet and mingle with those in attendance. The younger fans eagerly sought out autographs on soccer balls and jerseys.

Twelve players return from a team that went 8-4-4 in 2015, including four international players who were key components of last year’s team. The French Duo of Paul Marie and William Picoux will be joined by defensive star Martin Nygaard from Norway. Finishing out the group is English Midfielder Brad Fountain who played a key role in the late season success by the team in 2015.

Joining the four international veterans will be three players from the Philadelphia Union Academy. Brett Campbell from Georgetown University returns for his third season. Last season, he was the leading scorer for the team with 7 goals and 3 assists. Also returning for his second season will be Billy McConnell from Indiana University, who spent the 2013 season with the team. Also returning for his third season will be Will Campbell, who plays his college soccer for the University of North Carolina. The event also served as an introduction to new head coach Stephen Hogan, who has a long history with the team. Hogan played in Reading under former coach Brendan Burke, who now leads Bethlehem Steel FC of the USL. Hogan will also serve as an assistant coach under Burke in Bethlehem. Coach Hogan stated that his philosophy will be "speed, strength, and power" and that he looks forward to the upcoming season and the continued success of Reading United.

The team also took the opportunity to unveil a new kit design from Adidas. The custom design looks to the past, and once again Reading will don the white kit for all home matches. The design includes a patch for the Union on one shoulder and the PDL on the other. Long time team sponsor Giorgio Foods is featured across the front of the jersey just below the official crest for the team. The blue away kit features a similar clean, fresh design that will represent the team well on the road.

For more information on the team please visit www.ReadingUnitedAC.com