MLS awards Philadelphia expansion team for 2010

February 28, 2008

CHESTER, Pa. -- Men's professional outdoor soccer will make its return to the Philadelphia area in 2010 after a three-decade absence.

Major League Soccer officials and Gov. Ed Rendell announced plans for the league to set up a new franchise along the waterfront of Chester, a once-proud manufacturing city trying to turn its fortunes around.

"Timing in life is everything and the time is right today to bring soccer to Philadelphia," said Nick Sakiewicz, chief executive officer and operating partner of the team.

State officials hope the franchise will be a key part of a $414 million revitalization effort for the waterfront of Chester, an economically struggling city southwest of Philadelphia. A Harrah's slots casino recently opened at a nearby new horse racing track.

Earlier this month, Rendell announced $47 million in public funding for the 18,500-seat, soccer-only stadium. The rest of the plan calls for a convention center as well as commercial, retail and residential space.

Rendell noted that there has been criticism of using public funds for the stadium, but he said the impact of the sports franchise on the troubled city's psyche could not be quantified.

Other than a brief interlude by a women's pro team that was part of the now-defunct Women's United Soccer Association, the area has not had a pro outdoor team since the Philadelphia Fury ended its three-year stay in 1980. Previously, the Philadelphia Atoms played in the city from 1973-76.