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Philly soccer team eyeing alternative venues

New stadium in Chester may not be finished in time for opener

The Philadelphia Union might have to play the first home game in its existence at Lincoln Financial Field next year.

Union president Tom Veit confirmed a Washington Post report that the team has explored the option in case the 18,500-seat soccer stadium under construction on Chester's waterfront runs behind its completion date or the proposed opening day schedule from Major League Soccer does not accommodate the team's already tight construction deadline.

"Right now everything is running on schedule construction-wise, but we are on a real tight schedule and with MLS yet to announce opening day dates, we just want to make sure that we are covered," Veit told the Daily News. "If we have to open on a certain date that doesn't meet our deadlines then that is a problem, so we are just making sure we do our due diligence."

Home dates for the 2010 MLS season were scheduled to be announced today, but the league is holding off until at least next week in order to finalize issues with the Union and Toronto FC. Toronto is scheduled to undergo field renovation.

Veit noted that talks with Lincoln Financial Field officials have gone smoothly and they are willing to accommodate the team if need be.

Veit also confirmed the Post's report that the team explored playing at 52,000-seat Franklin Field on Penn's campus but noted that the 68,594-seat Linc as a more suitable fit.

"The Eagles have been great," Veit said. "We know with the Gold Cup having played there and it being a possible venue for the World Cup, it would be the perfect place for us to start the season. If it does have to be a possibility, they are ready to accommodate us."

The same issue could impact, the Independence, an expansion team in Women's Professional Soccer that will share the Chester stadium.

Independence owner David Halstead is "aware of the situation" and noted he has also taken the necessary steps to seek out alternative. The WPS season starts in March, a month earlier than MLS' usual open dates. The Independence has been in contact with area colleges Widener, West Chester and Villanova as possible venues, but Halstead noted that all are still in preliminary discussions.

"We are in touch with our partners on Union side, we are extremely excited to play in Chester and ultimately that will be our home," said Halstead. "However our season begins and ends earlier than that of the typical MLS season so it is prudent on our part to explore other venue options."