A raucous crowd of 34,870 filled
Lincoln Financial Field for Philadelphia Union’s home opener – a 3-2 victory
over D.C. United on April 10.
Another large crowd is expected for this Saturday’s home game at the same venue against FC Dallas. It’s an understatement to say that support from Philadelphia soccer fans has been tremendous for a franchise in in only its first season. Heck, led by the Sons of Ben, it was tremendous before Major League Soccer awarded the expansion franchise to the area on February 28, 2008.
For this passionate fan base, Saturday is another chance for supporters to buy tickets who might not have the chance once PPL Park opens on June 27. PPL Park has a capacity of 18,500 and season tickets are very close to being sold out. In fact, the club recently announced waiting list procedures, as less than 500 season tickets remain.
In the home opener, the crowd was nearly double the 18,500 plateau. On Saturday, it will certainly be much higher again.
“Tickets are flying at the stadium in Chester and they’re selling fast here at the Linc,” said Thomas Bauntager of Wilmington, Del. “I think the homefield advantage is great for this club. I had a chance to go to the game against D.C. United and I’m glad I did. No matter where this club plays, we as home fans are going to be cheering like crazy for them.”
Imagine how much of an advantage the Union will have when they officially move into their new digs in just a month and a half.
“We feed off the fans,” said midfielder Kyle Nakazawa. “I can’t comment exactly on the new stadium because we haven’t played there yet, but look at this fan base and how much they love soccer. You don’t draw nearly 35,000 fans without having that passion. I’m excited about Saturday and I’m excited about moving to the new stadium next month. Homefield advantage is so important in MLS.”
Goalkeeper Chris Seitz has had streamers flying past his head and supporters groups yelling sweet nothings in his ears in previous games.
Above all players, Seitz realizes how much of an advantage it will be to play at home.
“I enjoyed playing at the Linc and having those fans behind us,” Seitz said. “In smaller, more compact stadiums, like PPL Park, it will be a major advantage. And it will be our fans rooting like crazy for us. On the road, you have to use every ounce of concentration to avoid distractions. It’s not easy.
“It was great playing at the Linc, but when we have an overflow sellout crowd at PPL Park, well, that’s going to be awesome,” Seitz added. “It will definitely give us extra energy. It will drive us. It’s amazing to think that we basically had two sellout crowds in one game at the Linc when you add up all the fans.”
When defender Michael Orozco joined the Union, he was overjoyed for many reasons. The fan support was at the top of the list.
“From the moment I got here, people have been coming up to me and talking about soccer,” Orozco said. “You want people to be excited. To have the crowd we did in the Home Opener was fantastic. I think when we get to the opener in Chester, those fans who fill the seats will help us in many, many ways. Every one of them will be cheering.”
Union fans, go revel in Saturday’s game at Lincoln Financial Field. But come June 27, the scene will shift to PPL Park. It is what this organization and this fan base has been waiting for all these years.
“I think giving some other fans the chance to see these games at Lincoln Financial has been a bonus,” said forward Jack McInerney. “As a soccer player, we know what a sellout crowd can do for a team’s momentum. We’re ready for it.”
So how exactly do you fit 35,000 fans into an 18,500 seat stadium? The answer is easy. You don't.
Being part of those sellout crowds at PPL Park won't be so easy if you're not a season ticket holder. Go get those few remaining season tickets Union fans. It's almost already too late.