New professional soccer team to call Goodman Stadium home

Goodman Stadium will host a different kind of football in 2016.

Executives from Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union and the United Soccer League (USL) announced during a press conference on Wednesday that the USL’s newest franchise will play its home games in Goodman Stadium. The yet-to-be-named Lehigh Valley team will be owned and operated by Philadelphia Union and will begin its season in March 2016.

USL CEO and managing partner Alec Papadakis thanked Lehigh President John Simon for welcoming the USL to Lehigh.

“Thank you for welcoming USL to be part of Lehigh University,” said Papadakis. “We are honored to have your prestigious school as a USL venue.”

Philadelphia Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz described the new franchise as an “amazing opportunity.”

“It’s awesome to be in the Lehigh Valley,” said Sakiewicz. “Words can’t describe how excited we are to be making this historic announcement.”

Sakiewicz lauded the region’s appreciation for soccer, evidenced by the thousands of soccer fans who gathered at Steel Stacks to cheer on the U.S. national teams in World Cup games.

With the addition of the Lehigh Valley franchise—its 27th—the USL is now the world’s largest professional soccer league, said Sakiewicz.

Sakiewicz thanked university trustee Mike Caruso ’67; Kevin Clayton ’84, vice chair of Lehigh’s Board of Trustees; Brad Scheler, chairman of the Board of Trustees; and President John Simon for their work in developing the partnership between the USL, MLS and Lehigh.

“[Simon has] embraced the partnership to make Lehigh University our home in the Valley,” said Sakiewicz. “His leadership, along with athletic director Joe Sterrett and his staff, have opened their arms and welcomed us from day one. We appreciate your support and look forward to working with you in the months and years to come to build this franchise.”

“We’re flattered that the Philadelphia Union leadership thought highly enough about our facilities here at Lehigh and our Lehigh Valley community to want this area to be the home of one of their teams,” said Simon. “We’re very excited that you’re going to be here. I hope you find the experience to be as positive as have other professional teams who have called this area, including our campus, their home. You’re going to love playing your games in Goodman Stadium.”

In hosting the new USL team, Lehigh will help return professional soccer to a region with a historically strong soccer tradition.

“Eighty-five years ago, one of the most renowned professional teams in U.S. soccer history played just miles from here,” said Sakiewicz. “Bethlehem Steel FC won five U.S. Open Cup titles between 1911 and 1930, during a golden age of soccer in the early part of the 20th century. Well, if that was the golden age, today must be the diamond age of soccer. ... We’re excited to bring professional soccer back to Bethlehem and the greater Lehigh Valley.”

“Lehigh is proud to be able to serve our community by opening our facility and campus to your franchise,” said Simon. “On behalf of all of us at Lehigh, we welcome you and we wish you much success.”

Photos by Stephanie Veto