Premier League's Stoke City will test the Union
Stoke City FC is happy to be out of the heat. The English Premier League club arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday after playing a couple of friendly matches against the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas last week. Stoke City will wrap up a preseason U.S. tour Tuesday night with a game against the Union at PPL Park.
Stoke City FC is happy to be out of the heat.
The English Premier League club arrived in Philadelphia on Sunday after playing a couple of friendly matches against the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas last week. Stoke City will wrap up a preseason U.S. tour Tuesday night with a game against the Union at PPL Park.
On Monday, the team practiced on the Union's home field in a much cooler climate than it had experienced in Texas. A crowd of about 100 Union season-ticket holders was in the stadium to watch first-year manager Mark Hughes' club prepare.
"The MLS teams are very much in the middle of their seasons, so they have that game sharpness that we're trying to find ourselves," Hughes said. "Another game against good opposition will help in that respect."
Stoke City is gearing up for its Premier League opener, a date with Liverpool on Aug. 17. The team has a win and a loss this summer against MLS teams, and will return to England on Wednesday.
For Stoke City defender Marc Wilson, a native of Northern Ireland, the trip to Philadelphia is a chance to greet relatives he had not seen since grade school and to meet others for the first time.
This is Wilson's first visit to Philadelphia. His family's roots in the city, however, stretch back to the early 1920s when a great aunt was born in Philadelphia before returning to Northern Ireland a few years later.
Wilson now has extended family who live in Rose Valley. The 25-year-old, who has competed internationally for Ireland, caught up with those relatives after Monday's practice.
"It's terrific," Wilson said after taking some family photos. "Any support you can get anywhere helps a lot."
Union manager John Hackworth admitted Monday that his team's league match against Chicago on Saturday is the main focus after returning home from a 1-0 win over Vancouver over the weekend.
Still, Hackworth said friendlies are always a chance for reserves to make more of an impact, especially against a team from England's top division.
"I think it's an opportunity because we have a lot of guys on our roster that deserve an opportunity, specifically in front of fans, to prove what they can do," Hackworth said. "You'll see a number of our guys, too, that will be given that opportunity."
The Union are playing a Premier League team for the fourth straight season. Philadelphia is 1-2-0 all-time against English clubs, with its lone win coming against Everton in 2011.
MLS expansion. Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber told the Associated Press that team owners plan to discuss expansion "in great detail" Wednesday, before the league's All-Star Game against Italian club AS Roma that night in Kansas City, Mo.
MLS is focused on adding a second team in New York. But with David Beckham holding an ownership option and several cities expressing interest in a franchise, the league could shoot past the 20-team mark within a few years, Garber said.
There was a time when an ownership group could spend less than $10 million on a franchise, but those days are over. Surging attendance, modest but consistent television growth and even the recent success of the U.S. national team have made the MLS a hot property.
It cost English club Manchester City and its partner, the New York Yankees, an expansion fee of $100 million to launch New York City FC, which will begin play in 2015.
Other cities that have expressed interest in a team, or have lower-tier franchises who want to join MLS, include Atlanta, Sacramento, Orlando and the Twin Cities. - Associated Press