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Soccer announcement date is set for Feb. 28

Plans for an expansion team and stadium will be unveiled in Chester next week, sources say.

Major League Soccer has tentatively set Feb. 28 as the date to announce that a new expansion team would be awarded to the Philadelphia region, sources said.

A news conference is expected to be held in the city of Chester, where the team would play in an 18,500-seat stadium to be built beside the Delaware River.

The Inquirer reported last week that an agreement was imminent to make the Philadelphia area home to the professional soccer league's 16th team. Now, one person acquainted with the thinking of MLS Commissioner Don Garber, and another familiar with the local group's bid, said the official announcement would come a week from today.

The sources spoke on the condition they not be named, citing the sensitivity of the timing.

MLS spokesmen declined to comment yesterday.

Philadelphia is the largest market in which MLS does not operate a team.

Some details remain to be worked out between MLS and the local owner-investment group, which includes iStar Financial CEO Robert Sugarman and Swarthmore Group chairman James Nevels, well-known for having served as chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.

The $115 million stadium would stand near the Commodore Barry Bridge in one of Pennsylvania's poorest cities. It would anchor a $500 million complex of stores, restaurants and housing.

The Philadelphia bid has traveled a gauntlet of competition, eventually emerging, with St. Louis, as one of two finalists. The St. Louis group had brokered a deal back in September to build a stadium, but struggled to attract investors.

The Philadelphia bid had strong ownership, but lacked a stadium deal until last month, when Gov. Rendell announced that the state would provide a key $47 million in funding.