THE ROAD TO RIO STARTS IN CHESTER ON JUNE 3

Nigeria played Greece in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa

You want to know how far soccer has come in the Philly area, just since 2010, when the World Cup was played in South Africa and the MLS Union began play in Chester’s PPL Park?

By David F. Cohen

The Union, though they are having a down year in 2014, has become a regular staple of the Philly sports scene — where once there were four stars now there are five.

MLS just announced an eight-year, $70 million-a-year TV deal with ESPN, Fox Sports1 and Univision, and the league just announced another big market team in Atlanta, which will bring the league total to 22. And Arthur Blank, the Atlanta Falcons owner, will own this team too.

The old line about, “Money going to money” is epitomized by Blank and his NFL association.

And the Union’s business has been bullish since they started MLS play in 2010.

“Colonial Marble & Granite was one of our founding sponsors,” Nick Sakiewicz points out as he sits in a conference room in Colonial’s King of Prussia vast showroom.

Colonial’s top execs are father and son Tom and Nikos Papadopoulos, and when the pair heard that there was a World Cup tune-up “Road to Rio” slot available they called Sakiewicz to say they wanted to get involved.

So next Tuesday, June 3, PPL Park in Chester will be filled by Greek and Nigerian enthusiasts.

And, for the record, Greece has been installed as a 200-1 favorite to win the World Cup in Rio which starts June 12, and Nigeria is 250-1.

Two long shots from Africa and the Mediterranean are playing in Chester and a sellout crowd of 18,000 is expected.

That’s how far soccer has come in Philly!

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Greece is currently ranked as the 13th best team in the world according to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association. The team qualified for the World Cup this year by finishing in second place of their group, losing a tie-breaker because of goal differentials to Bosnia and Herzegovina. With an 8-1-1 record, Greece had one of the best marks of any team qualifying for the event and will be looking to put on a show in Group C when they take on Ivory Coast, Colombia and Japan in Brazil. They didn’t make it out of the Group Stage in the 2010 World Cup, but has a better team this time around.

The Nigerian national soccer team is one of the best in Africa. They are only ranked as the 47th best team in the world by FIFA, but the talents that can found on their side of the field is usually easy to spot. They will be making their fifth appearance in a World Cup and will be looking to get out of the Group Stage for the first time since the 2002 tournament. In their last two appearances, they were winless and finished last in their group.

For soccer, PPL Park has a seating capacity of 18,500 fans, but with these two teams competing, they may look to add extra seats along the way. The facility has hosted events other than soccer since opening, including being the host venue for the Big East Men’s Soccer tournament.

 

 

 

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