The Philadelphia Union have gone away from the Bethlehem Steel FC identity for their USL Championship affiliate.
On Thursday, the club rebranded the second-division side to Philadelphia Union II.
“We continue to invest and believe in our academy players and the young, talented players we discover through our scouting network,” Union sporting director Ernst Tanner said. “Positioning our USL club as a proving ground for the high-potential talents within our club allows them to learn from interacting with our first team and challenging themselves against excellent USL competition.
“This change further strengthens the bridge from youth to the pros within the Union family and gives academy players and young prospects the chance early on to wear the Union colors and prove they are ready to play for the badge at a first team level.”
In 2019, the Union moved the USL affiliate from the Lehigh Valley to Talen Energy Stadium, but they kept the Steel name while they tried to figure out a stadium solution.
The USL fined Bethlehem Steel FC this past season for facility conditions at McCarthy Stadium at La Salle University, a temporary venue the club used for home games in June.
“For the past several years, we have diligently explored numerous stadium options in the Lehigh Valley,” Union chief business officer Tim McDermott said. “Unfortunately, there still is not a viable stadium solution that will meet the current stadium requirements for the USL Championship.”
McDermott added: “At the same time, we recognize the player development benefits from having our USL team located at the same campus and playing in the same stadium as our first team. As we will be based in Chester, changing the name to Union II appropriately reflects our player development pathway. The Lehigh Valley is a special place. We are incredibly thankful for our friends and fans and the relationships we have forged. We will continue to make every effort possible to bring the Union brand to the region.”
On Wednesday, Union owner Jay Sugarman told Pro Soccer USA that he wanted the USL Championship affiliate to focus on development first with commercial considerations second on the list of priorities.
“The number one priority is it has to be the finishing school for up-and-coming players that we’re trying to develop,” Sugarman said. “To me, that is the most important thing there.”
Bethlehem Steel FC missed the USL Championship playoffs this past season, finishing 16th in the Eastern Conference table with a 8-7-19 record.