Newcastle United is talking with the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer about a match that would signal a return trip to the U.S. for Newcastle this summer, according to sources among our readership with connections to MLS. Nothing is set yet, but the Union is seeking one or two Premier League friendlies for its summer season and Newcastle appears to be in the mix. Phone and email inquiries to NUFC and the Union for comment have drawn no response thus far.
A tour centered around Philadelphia would present less risk of the weather and travel issues that plagued Newcastle's visit to the U.S. last summer. Philadelphia's high temperatures in July and August average in the 80s rather than above 90 (32 Celsius) as in Kansas City and Orlando. Philly is closer to other major population centers and offers easier domestic travel, with New York City and Washington only 90 and 140 miles away, four other MLS cities (Boston, Columbus, Montreal and Toronto) reachable by direct flight in less than two hours, and Chicago just over two hours away by plane. Also, with this much lead time - and Joey Barton off the squad - Newcastle would likely be able to avoid player absences due to visa hassles.
The Union has played only two seasons in MLS, but has acclimated fast, losing only 8 of 34 matches last year and appearing in the playoffs, where the club was bounced from the final eight by Houston. The manager is Polish international Piotr Nowak, and the leading scorer is Sebastien Le Toux, a Rennes native who played briefly in Ligue 2 for Lorient before coming to the U.S. - though by the time the transfer window closes later today Le Toux could be gone, as he has been a target of several clubs including Bolton. While no soccer team in North America (and few on Earth) can match the palatial residence that is Kansas City's Livestrong Park, the Union also plays in a sparkling new stadium, PPL Park on the Delaware River waterfront in the city of Chester, Pa., 15 miles from central Philadelphia. Opened in 2010, PPL cost "only" $120 million (compared to Livestrong's $200 million) and seats 18,500 fans for soccer, the same as Livestrong.
Turning off journalistic objectivity mode now: Yes, we're excited. Last year's tour was a blast (both as in fun and furnace). Here's hoping this return visit materializes, in smoother and cooler fashion for the club.