The Union will take their first major step toward assembling a roster for 2010 by selecting 10 players Wednesday in Major League Soccer's expansion draft.
Peter Nowak, Philadelphia's coach and team manager, had a wish list of 50 to 60 players as early as July. But the process officially starts today at 3 p.m., when the league's 15 teams must submit lists of 11 players they wish to protect from the expansion draft.
"So, that's basically your starting lineup," top Union assistant John Hackworth said last week at the Union's offices in Chester.
The league will reveal the names of the unprotected players shortly after the deadline, and the Union will pick 10 players - via fax by 1 p.m. Wednesday to MLS headquarters in New York - while plucking no more than one player from any team's roster.
That means five MLS teams will not have a player drafted.
"As an expansion franchise, you have a really good start to pick the 12th guy who might be a starter on another team," Hackworth said. "Certainly, when you're picking him, you're thinking, 'He's going to be the starter for us.' "
Nowak, Hackworth and company will have several factors to consider as they prepare to fill almost half of a 24-man roster.
"It's us doing a lot of homework, trying to decipher what another organization or head coach or their staff is going to do and what we need," Hackworth said.
"For instance, if there are two center midfielders available in that draft, maybe we don't take both of them, because it doesn't make sense for us. . . . We need a center midfielder, we need a left back, we need a center back, we need a forward, we need a goalkeeper. So this is the process that we're going to go through, which is going to be extremely important for building the basis for our team."
There are 13 methods of acquiring players in Major League Soccer, including the annual MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 14, when the expansion Union will have the No. 1 overall pick of college players and league-combine participants.
Although the franchise's operating budget is unknown, it will have to manage the financial aspect of the draft with the awareness that it will add more talent, including four players in January's SuperDraft and four more in another supplemental draft.
Of course, after breaking ground on an 18,500-seat stadium in Chester, hiring its head coach and top assistant from the U.S. national team, and unveiling its team jerseys during the last year, the Union staff recognizes this week's draft is the beginning of defining the team's bottom line.
"Right now, we have zero players," Hackworth said. "On Nov. 25, we will have 10."