CHESTER, Pa. (July 12, 2021) – Philadelphia Union announced today that the club has signed Sporting Director Ernst Tanner to a new, multi-year contract extension. Tanner joined the Union in October 2018 as the club’s second-ever Sporting Director.
In his first full season as Sporting Director, the team finished with their best season in Union history with the most points, wins, goals and assists. In 2020, the Union followed up with more accolades, finishing with a semifinalist place in the MLS is Back Tournament, an undefeated season at home, the Supporters’ Shield trophy for finishing with the best record in MLS, and a first-ever Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League berth.
“We knew when we hired Ernst we were getting a top-tier sporting director who could take our club to the next level. Thanks to his leadership and buy-in from coaches, players, and the entire staff at the Philadelphia Union, we have experienced continued progress and enjoyed the two best seasons in our history,” said Philadelphia Union Principal Owner Jay Sugarman. “Our core values are player development, a pressing, team-first, never-say-die style of play, and a commitment to innovation. Ernst has helped us turn those values into a winning formula that we believe can be a platform for long-term success. Additionally, Ernst helped us show young players that this club offers a pathway to their dreams of being professional soccer players in MLS and in Europe. We have signed eight Homegrown players to the first team under Ernst and were recently named the best academy in the country. With Ernst continuing at the helm of our soccer operations, we look forward to bringing Philly fans the thrilling soccer they have come to love.”
One of his biggest areas of emphasis has been investing from within, with a focus on the Union’s youth system. He has successfully created a more efficient and consistent pipeline from the Union Academy, through Union II, to the first team and beyond as he saw through the Union’s first European transfers in Homegrowns Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie. His investment in the academy over the last three years saw the academy most recently named best Boys Soccer Club in the United States by SoccerWire.com.
Additionally, he has supplemented the club’s strategy of building around top American veterans and the best youth program in the country by identifying hidden international talents such as Kacper Przybylko, Kai Wagner, Jakob Glesnes and Jose Martinez.
Upon arrival, Tanner implemented a change to the team’s style of play from a possession-based strategy to a more direct, aggressive, and innovative style of play. Under Tanner, the Union have also become more data-driven in their decision making and he has helped introduce proprietary data analysis procedures that has led to high-level game preparation.
Prior to the Union, Tanner logged 24 years of previous technical experience with three European clubs: TSV1860 Munich, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and Red Bull Salzburg. He brought his well-respected reputation for development, methodology, scouting and talent identification to Philadelphia after first playing a key role in the discovery and/or development of some the top professional talent in Europe including: Roberto Firmino, Kevin Volland, Sven Bender, Lars Bender and Sadio Mane. He also oversaw the highly successful and innovative Red Bull Salzburg Academy.