What can Stoke City fans expect from the Philadelphia Union this evening?
Well, perhaps a warm welcome for a start. It’s no secret that Americans have long since been fans of the English Premier League, but make no mistake local MLS teams get great backing also, and should be taken very seriously on and off the pitch.
The league has made great strides over the years to add to the list of teams competing in Major League Soccer, and new teams are currently being added to the extremely young league on a yearly basis.
A fact that may surprise any Stoke fan visiting PPL Park or watching the game this evening, especially when they witness the stadium and the quality of the Philadelphia XI (should they go full strength) is that the Union are only five years old.
The club was founded back in 2008 and their first ever Major League Soccer game was only played 3 years ago, in a 2-0 loss to Seattle. Given that incredible fact, on paper the Union have no right to be competing with Premier League teams, but Stoke fans can be guaranteed they will.
As well a passionate and dedicated board, a stunning ground and the beautiful scenery surrounding the stadium, PPL Park is also home to the Sons of Ben.
Loud supporter groups will be nothing new to Stoke City fans – especially one that’s witnessed any game at the Britannia – but Philadelphia’s ‘Sons of Ben’ are one of most interesting and vibrant supporters clubs in MLS.
A large part of MLS culture are the official supporters groups, such as Philadelphia’s ‘Tammany Saints’ who occupy section 101 and 133 inside PPL Park, whilst the ‘Bridge Crew occupy sections 120-121. There are others, but the ‘Sons of Ben’ will be what you immediately noticed when watching PPL Park.
In fact, the supporters group, named after their local founding father Benjamin Franklin, are the sole reason the club exists. It was their campaigning that grabbed the attention of MLS and forced a new franchise to be born in the city of Philadelphia.
The Sons of Ben have over 2,500 members, and mostly congregate behind the river end goalmouth at PPL Park. It’ll be impossible not to notice the Sons throughout tonight’s game, as their passionate singing, dancing, flag waving and drum beating antics will last the full 90.
On the pitch, the Union may not be as foreign to you Stokie’s as you imagine. Should the Union choose to field a full strength squad, you can expect to see ex Manchester United midfielder Kleberson going up against Charlie Adam.
One of MLS’ top scorers, Jack McInerney, has been dubbed the American Javier Hernandez by some football critics across the pond. Jack recently returned from the Gold Cup winning USA squad, and if Stoke make any mistakes whilst trying to implement their new style this evening – more specifically playing out from the back a la Dallas – you can expect Jack to pounce and score.
Given the build-up, it’d be nice if the Union field a strong team, because rest assured Stoke fans – they’ll work hard for the fans in attendance and given its only pre-season after all, they’ll definitely make it competitive.
However – The Union travelled home from Canada on Sunday, and play again Saturday, so if there’s any hint of weakness in the starting line-up from then, I think it may be a wise idea to back your own team tonight Stoke fans, even if it is a friendly.
If you are watching, I hope you enjoy what MLS and Philadelphia Union have to offer. I hope you enjoy the game, and hopefully this brief post filled some time whilst you wait!
The game kicks off at 12.30am on the Philadelphia Union website, and I’ll be sure to update you with the starting line-ups on Twitter.