The cornerstone of the Union's strategy, owner Jay Sugarman said, is to internally develop their talent instead of buying it on the market. That strategy was strengthened Friday as the team announced the hiring of Rene Meulensteen as a consultant.

Meulensteen, 50, will advise the Union on all soccer operations. The Dutchman spent 12 years with Manchester United and was most recently the manager of English club Fulham. He spent five years as an academy coach for United and will bring his experience with player development to the Union.

Meulensteen said the Union's focus on youth development was one of the most attractive factors. The length of his tenure, he said, is open-ended.

Sugarman said the team plans to hire a sporting director, who would serve as the team's general manager. There is no time frame for that hire. Sugarman said manager Jim Curtin and assistant technical director Chris Albright will continue to have final say on player personnel.

"But you can never have enough great advice," said Sugarman. "Rene has an international perspective that we think is unmatched. Jim and Chris have a great perspective on MLS from their years in the league. We think that combination is pretty darn powerful."

In order for Major League Soccer to maintain its growth, Meulensteen said it needs to continue to develop its grassroots programs. Strong youth programs will cause young players to remain in America, instead of feeling the need to play in Europe.

Meulensteen visited the Union's youth academy this week in Wayne. The academy opened last fall and consists of premier playing facilities and a school. The program will become "the envy of America," he said. And Meulensteen insisted he was not "blowing the trumpet" because he is on the Union's payroll.

"This is the strategy that I strongly believe in," said Meulensteen. "Because when you get it right and you get that timing belt right, it will just keep growing. The most important thing is that you develop players that have the Philadelphia Union blood running through their veins."

@matt_breen