The Next Gem In MLS Stadiums, PPL Park

CHESTER, PA - JUNE 27: A general view of the PPL Park before the Philadelphia Union face the Seattle Sounders FC at the PPL Park stadium opener on June 27, 2010 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Earlier this season it was Red Bull Arena that opened up to praise and relief as one of the biggest sporting markets in the United States finally had their own soccer specific stadium with a European feel towards it. I still have to say that I am very lucky to walk inside of it every time I attend a Red Bulls match. But while construction was behind over at Chester, Pennsylvania and the opener was pushed back to Sunday, June 27th. You talk to Philadelphia Union supporters and they will say it was worth the wait.

Ladies and Gentleman the newest jewel of Stadiums in Major League Soccer is just along the Delaware River and next to the Commodore John Barry Bridge is PPL Park. An 18,500 seat stadium with a east end that is separate to the rest of the stadium that is for the top supporters group in the Sons of Ben and any other groups that have signed on.

The natural grass looks beautiful, the people of Philadelphia, southern New Jersey and Delaware have come to see and support a side of their own as all the seats have been sold along with 12,000 season ticket holders. Watching the opener I was so happy to see a sold out crowd supporting their new expansion club going from Lincoln Financial Field in their first two home matches to their brand new home in Chester.

But unfortunately it would be the Sounders who would record the first goal at PPL Park as Pat Noonan converts in the 45th minute. Steve Zakuani would cross the ball from the far side and getting a touch on it was Fredy Montero, but it took a deflection towards Noonan who somehow stayed onsides and slotted the ball past Union keeper Chris Seitz.

Once again this is a positive advancement in the game for the United States. It’s not just player development or referee development within US Soccer, but it’s also the creation and building of stadiums in Major League Soccer that will help our clubs continue to grow financially. This has always been the next positive step to make our league grow, to stop paying rent to facilities that they have no control over.

At the same time who would have thought in our life time that you would see two stadiums for MLS open inside the same year. March 20th it was Red Bull Arena, June 27th is now PPL Park. While we celebrate these two stadiums in 2010, don’t forget that the Wizards have started construction of their own stadium and both the Dynamo & Earthquakes just got approval to build their own stadiums.

At the moment there are eleven stadiums within MLS built for twelve clubs (Home Depot Center has Chivas-USA & LA Galaxy). But very soon that total will go up to fourteen once those three clubs will start playing in their new homes in future seasons. While Red Bull Arena is an awesome place to watch a match, I still have to say that no matter how small or how big these new stadiums are it’s important for the game in the United States and Canada to continue to play in stadiums that they can control the revenue and the schedule.

Congratulations to all of the Philadelphia area and let’s hope there will be a US National Team match coming soon either in a friendly or a World Cup Qualifier.

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