The Philadelphia Union got their offseason off to a fast start on Monday morning, announcing that they’ve agreed to terms with former US international Earnie Stewart to take over as the club’s sporting director, effective Jan. 1, 2016.
As sporting director, Stewart will oversee and guide all Union technical and soccer-related decisions while working closely with the Union First Team, USL team and Youth Academy. It’ll be a familiar role for the 46-year-old, who helped Dutch side AZ Alkmaar qualify for the Europa League each of the last six seasons from his post as the club’s Director of Football. Stewart signed US internationals Jozy Altidore and Aron Johansson while at Alkmaar, both of whom have since moved on from the club.
“In searching for a sporting director, we defined specific criteria we were looking for a candidate to fulfill. Earnie rated highly on all our key metrics. His understanding of the international soccer landscape and viewpoint on Major League Soccer, combined with his experience in player development and strong work ethic, make Earnie an excellent fit for this important role,” Philadelphia Union owner Jay Sugarman said in a statement released by the club. “Earnie’s long-term vision and desire to positively impact soccer in the United States aligns closely with our vision for the Philadelphia Union and we are excited to welcome him back to the USA and put him in a position to drive the Union to long term success.”
A staple for the USMNT throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Stewart registered 101 caps from 1990 until he retired in 2005. He was a regular starter for the US in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups and his 111 goals as a professional in the Netherlands make him the highest-scoring American in international club play. Stewart also played in MLS during the 2003 and 2004 seasons and was a member of the D.C. United team that won the MLS Cup in 2004.
Stewart's hiring comes less than a month after the Union parted ways with former club CEO Nick Sakiewicz.
“I am thrilled with the opportunity to come to the Philadelphia Union and help create a winning team which the fans can identify with,” Stewart said in the statement. “I look forward to working with everyone at the Union to establish a clear playing philosophy and use my experience to create a competitive edge in our methods of recruiting and developing players at all levels of the club, from the academy up through the first team.
"From the first moment I spoke with the Union about the direction they wanted to go I was excited about the long term opportunity and my ability to help execute on our shared vision. I would like to thank AZ for giving me the chance to follow my ambition in coming back to the United States and I remain committed to fulfilling my duties here at AZ Alkmaar through the end of the year. I will work my hardest to hit the ground running for the Union and be ready for the important decisions the club will make entering the 2016 season.”