Philadelphia was awarded Major League Soccer's 16th team on February 28, 2008. Led by the ownership group of Keystone Sports and Entertainment, LLC, the club operated under the name MLS Philadelphia 2010 for most of 2008 and the early portion of 2009. The combination of extensive grassroots support spearheaded by the Sons of Ben and a public/private partnership between Philadelphia Union, the State of Pennsylvania, Delaware County and the City of Chester enabled the construction of a state-of-the-art soccer stadium and convinced MLS that the Philadelphia region deserved a soccer team.
After thorough historical and fan research, the club announced its name,crest and colors on May 11, 2009 at Philadelphia's City Hall. Philadelphia Union alludes to the Union of the Thirteen Colonies, of which Philadelphia was the first capital. The club’s name and crest incorporate Philadelphia’s rich colonial history and vital role in the creation of our nation – the Union. The team's name was chosen following a 'Fan Vote' held between January 19, 2009 and February 6, 2009.
Philadelphia Union's primary colors are navy blue and gold, representing the Continental Army's uniforms during the American Revolutionary War. The light blue in the middle of the badge is derived from the civic flag of Philadelphia and is a tribute to the Sons of Ben supporters club. The team's primary crest is circular, symbolizing unity. The thirteen gold stars displayed along the base of the crest represent the original Thirteen Colonies, while the shield's contour derives from the Philadelphia coat of arms. The rattlesnake featured in the center of the shield pays homage to a political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin that was featured in multiple editions of the Pennsylvania Gazette in the 1750s. The rattlesnake became a national symbol during the American Revolution, representing the danger of disunity, and was featured on the Gadsden flag. Union's secondary logo also features the rattlesnake, along with the motto "JUNGITE aut PERITE," a Latin phrase meaning "JOIN or DIE," which was displayed by Franklin in his cartoons along with the rattlesnake.
Peter Nowak was introduced as the first ever Team Manager of Philadelphia Union on May 29, 2009. The club's first players were then acquired on November 25 via the MLS Expansion Draft.
On March 25, 2010, Philadelphia played its first ever match, a 2-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC. On April 10, 2010, the club's Inaugural Home Opener, Philadelphia notched the first victory in team history beating D.C. United 3-2 in front of 34,870 fans.
The Union picked up three players in the 2011 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. Most notably, Zac MacMath, who was the fifth overall draft pick. On January 11, 2011 the Union acquired shirt sponsor Bimbo Bakeries USA. The team made a complete turnaround in the 2011 season, finishing in third place in the Eastern Conference and making playoffs, ending their season scoring 44 goals and allowing 36. The Union had a stellar run and did not lose in their first six games but was eventually defeated by Portland on May 6, 2011. After qualifying for the playoffs after a tie at home against Toronto FC, the Union were defeated 1-0 by Houston Dynamo in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference quarterfinal on November 3, 2011 ending their playoff run.
In 2012, John Hackworth took over the Union as interim coach on June 13, 2012 and was given the permanent title on August 30, 2012. The Union finished their season with a 10-18-6 record, scoring 37 goals and allowing 45. The highlight of the year was on June 23, 2012 when the Union defeated Sporting Kansas City in MLS regular season play, 4-0. Sporting Kansas City was the best team in the Eastern Conference at the time. A month later it was Sporting Kansas City that ended the Union's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup hopes after a 2-0 win in quarterfinal play at PPL Park. Antoine Hoppenot, selected in the third round of the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft was quickly recognized as the most productive weapon off the bench. Hoppenot netted four goals within 817 minutes of play. PPL Park was the site of the MLS All-Star Game in which the MLS All-Stars defeated English Premier League giants Chelsea, 3-2.
In 2013, the Union spent the season near the top of the Eastern Conference standings for much of the season. It was a season in which the club compiled its best ever win record (12) when it finish in seventh place 12-12-10 in MLS play. Down a man and running out of time, Kleberson scored a stoppage-time free kick to win against Toronto FC on October 5, 2013, keeping the club playoffs hopes in full swing in addition to creating one of the most memorable moments in team history. Another memorable moment was when midfielder Danny Cruz scored two times in a one-minute span, leading the Union to a 2-2 draw against Seattle Sounders on May 4, 2013. Jack McInerney finished the season as the Union’s leading scorer with 12 goals, 10 of them being before June 1, 2013. Forward Conor Casey was named one of three finalists for the 2013 MLS Comeback Player of the Year for his 10 goals and five assists of the 2013 season.