Philadelphia Union have had a successful run in the Lehigh Valley through our USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC. We have loved being in the Lehigh Valley and we know it is a terrific market with passionate sports fans. Unfortunately, we have been informed by the USL that Lehigh University’s Goodman Stadium no longer meets the minimum requirements set forth by the league due to a lack of stadium lighting. Upon hearing the decision that we could not return to Goodman, we visited and analyzed multiple other potential venues with the aim of keeping Steel FC in the Lehigh Valley, but there was no solution that met all the league requirements that could be ready in time for the 2019 season, including field size, capacity, and lighting, among others.
As a result, Bethlehem Steel FC will play next season at Talen Energy Stadium while we evaluate stadium options for beyond 2019. Our experience in the Lehigh Valley has been tremendous, serving our primary goal of player development, so it is disappointing that we are not able to continue there in 2019.
We also understand that this news may be disappointing for Steel FC fans, particularly those living in the Lehigh Valley area. To show our appreciation for supporting the club, we will be giving all 2018 Steel FC Season Ticket Members access to our USL games at Talen Energy Stadium at no charge. Furthermore, USL tickets will be included as added value in all 2019 Union Season Ticket Memberships. We’d like to thank all Steel FC fans for their loyalty and assure them that we will continue to look for a long-term solution in the Lehigh Valley. In fact, we are working on a special agreement with the USL to play up to two games in Bethlehem next season (at a site to be determined) despite our overall restriction as we continue to work with Lehigh University on the stadium lighting issue. We are also keeping the team name as Bethlehem Steel FC with the same logos because we are viewing this situation as temporary – we hope we can return to the Lehigh Valley as soon as possible with an approved stadium solution.
In terms of the impact of this news on the First Team, we are committed to the USL model and its importance in developing our young players, and because of the priority we place on that, we will remain in the USL Championship (Division II). This is also a great short-term opportunity for our USL players to play regularly at Talen Energy Stadium, as well for Union fans to see our Path to the Pros up close.