CHESTER, PA - Major League Soccer unveiled plans for the league's 16th team today, as MLS Commissioner Don Garber awarded Philadelphia an expansion team that will begin play in 2010. The Philadelphia MLS team will play in a new 20,000-seat stadium to be constructed as part of a major development project in Chester, PA.
The Philadelphia club will be owned by iStar Financial CEO Jay Sugarman, Swarthmore Group Chairman James Nevels, Philadelphia attorney William Doran, veteran sports executive Nick Sakiewicz and Christopher and Robert Buccini, founding partners of The Buccini/Pollin Group.
"We are thrilled to welcome Philadelphia to Major League Soccer," said Commissioner Garber. "Philadelphia brings in one of the most passionate sports markets in the country and provides a natural rivalry with the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United.
"Thanks to the steadfast commitment of Jay Sugarman's group and the vision of Pennsylvania government officials, MLS is coming soon to Philadelphia," Garber added. "We look forward to celebrating the world's most popular sport in the country's fourth-largest market and in a state-of-the-art soccer-specific stadium."
"Major League Soccer is truly a league with the wind behind its sail," said lead investor Jay Sugarman, CEO of iStar Financial. "I am very excited to join the distinguished list of existing MLS owners and to help guide the League's growth into one of America's great sports cities. We're going to build a first-class organization on and off the field and we will create a development that makes the community proud."
The MLS Philadelphia club will play their home matches in a 20,000-seat soccer-specific stadium in Chester, just 13 miles from downtown Philadelphia and easily accessible from Interstate 95 and public transportation via the R2 SEPTA train and SEPTA buses. The stadium will serve as the hub of a $500 million waterfront development project that will also feature townhomes, apartments, office space, a convention and exposition center, retail space, new streets, greenways and a riverside promenade that will include boat slips.
Eastern Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia area have a rich soccer tradition that has produced some of the country's best players throughout the years, including 2006 U.S. World Cup team members Ben Olsen of D.C. United, Chris Albright of the New England Revolution and former D.C. United and current Reading FC midfielder Bobby Convey. Professional soccer in Philadelphia dates back to the 1920's and the formation of the American Soccer League with charter member Philadelphia F.C. In addition, the National Soccer Hall of Fame was organized by the Philadelphia Old-Timers Association in 1950.
"It's all about the fans and the community," said Nick Sakiewicz, CEO & Operating Partner. "And this ownership group is passionately committed to doing things in a major-league way. It will be the people's team, with a world-class stadium. You'll see a work-hard-play-hard mentality that will showcase attractive, winning football with a determination that Philadelphia-area sports fans demand and will be proud of."
With the announcement of the 16th team, MLS added its sixth team since the start of the 2005 season. Expansion conversations continue with approximately 10 markets throughout the United States and Canada. MLS officials will continue those discussions as the League could feature as many as 18 clubs by 2011.
"As evidenced by our patience in the case of Philadelphia, we will only expand when we believe the circumstances are right," Garber said. "We continue to seek the essential combination of strong ownership, an appropriate facility controlled by that ownership, and a market with a tradition of supporting the sport. St. Louis is one of the leading candidates we are considering and we are hopeful that all elements will come together soon for the city to join the League."
The fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States with 6.8 million people, the Delaware Valley features a diverse population and some of the most fervent sports fans in the country. Philadelphia has hosted many international soccer matches, including the Manchester United vs. Barcelona game in front of more than 68,000 fans that opened Lincoln Financial Field in 2003 and the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2003.
Majority Investor Jay Sugarman is the Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of iStar Financial, a publicly traded investment firm providing custom-tailored capital to high-end private and corporate owners of real estate in the United States. iStar also invests in other targeted areas through its European, AutoStar (auto dealership) and TimberStar (timber) platforms, and in the leveraged finance markets through its affiliate, Oak Hill Advisors. iStar's current investment portfolio exceeds $20 billion.
James Nevels is the Founder and Chairman of The Swarthmore Group, an investment advisor firm based in Philadelphia. Nevels was appointed by President Bush to the Advisory Committee to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and served a three year term, 2004-2007. He served as Chairman from 2005-2007. In December 2001, Nevels was appointed by the Governor of Pennsylvania as Chairman of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission which has been charged with overseeing the turnaround of the Philadelphia School System, the eighth largest school district in the United States.
As a founding executive of Major League Soccer and part of the League since its inception more than 12 years ago, Nick Sakiewicz is a two-time winner of the MLS Executive of the Year award. He has served as the president and general manager for both the Tampa Bay Mutiny and MetroStars (now known as Red Bull New York). Most recently, Sakiewicz was responsible for all business operations for AEG in the New York/New Jersey region.
Rob Buccini is a founding partner of The Buccini/Pollin Group, Inc., a privately held, full-service real estate acquisition, development and management company with offices in Wilmington, DE, Washington DC, suburban Philadelphia, Baltimore, MD and New York City. Buccini/Pollin has developed and acquired office, hotel, multi-family, townhouse, industrial, retail, and parking properties in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the United States and is the largest privately held office landlord in the Philadelphia region.
Philadelphia's name, logo and colors will be unveiled at a later date, along with the coaching and administrative staff. For more information and season ticket availability, fans should visit www.MLSPhilly2010.com or call 1-877-MLS-2010.
ABOUT MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer is the top-flight professional soccer league in the United States and features many stars from the United States and around the world. The League's 13th season kicks off March 29. The 14 teams in MLS are: the Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Chivas USA, Columbus Crew, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, Red Bull New York, New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes and Toronto FC. The League's 15th team, Seattle, will begin play in 2009, and 16th team, Philadelphia, will begin play in 2010. For more information about MLS, log on to the League's official web site at www.MLSnet.com.