For the fifth time since its gates opened in 2003, Lincoln Financial Field will host a soccer event when the fledgling Union plays its inaugural home opener against MLS Eastern Conference rival D.C. United on Saturday (6 p.m., FSC).
"Lincoln Financial Field is no stranger to soccer. We opened the building with a sold-out match against Manchester United and Barcelona [on Aug. 3, 2003]," Eagles president Joe Banner said. "That set the stage for this to be perceived as a building that is ready to welcome soccer both locally and internationally."
Although the Linc has a capacity of about 69,000, the Union capped ticket sales at 38,000. As of yesterday, Union president Tom Veit confirmed that more than 25,000 tickets have been sold for the game. In addition, fewer than 1,000 season tickets remain available for purchase. The Union capped season-ticket sales at 12,000.
"We wanted to be at 30,000 [for the home opener] and we are on pace to do that," Veit said. "If this game were being played at PPL Park, we would have been sold out months ago. We are continually amazed by the support from our fans in Philadelphia. It's nice to finally drop the ball and play in our hometown."
The game is the first of a pair to be played at the Linc; the Union will play FC Dallas there May 15. PPL Park, the team's 18,500-seat, soccer-specific stadium under construction on the Chester waterfront, is scheduled to open June 27 for a game against Seattle.
The Linc also will host the final send-off game for the U.S. men's national team before the World Cup in South Africa. That game against Turkey on May 29 (2 p.m., ESPN2) has surpassed 30,000 in ticket sales.
Open Cup play-in
The Union will take on Red Bull New York in a play-in game for entrance into the U.S. Open Cup on April 27 (8 p.m.) at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. The winner will play top-seeded New England in a semifinal match on May 12 (7:30 p.m.) at a site to be determined. The two top clubs from the entire dual-bracket play-in tournament will join six other MLS teams to eventually enter the overall tournament during the third round. The Open Cup features amateur, semiprofessional and MLS teams that all fall under the auspices of U.S. Soccer.
Reyna to lead youth
Former U.S. national team captain Claudio Reyna has been appointed the U.S. Soccer Federation's youth technical director. In his new position, Reyna will work with youth organizations and their coaches to "oversee the design and implementation of long-term strategies for development of both coaches and players at the youth level in the United States," according to a release.