Don’t laugh, but the Union might be Philadelphia’s next champions

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Union have won the Supporters’ Shield.

Forget what it says on the Philadelphia Union‘s jerseys. Bimbos they’re not.

In fact, the Philadelphia Union are now Major League Soccer’s regular season champions, winners of what they call the Supporter’s Shield. Considering the franchise’s dubious history since its 2010 inception, it’s a remarkable achievement for a team that has never won a thing over that span while compiling a combined 114-135-87 mark with just three winning seasons.

While there’s no prize for being the best in the business during the regular season in any other sport – other than perhaps getting to host the most playoff games –  it’s considered a big deal in what the rest of the world calls football. The Shield was created in 1999, three years after the MLS debuted, paying homage to how they do it in Europe.

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But for the Union and its rabid fanbase, the Sons of Ben, success has been rather limited. The best finish by the team, which is based in Chester, right on the banks of the Delaware, was fifth place in the East in 2019.

Postseason success hasn’t been any better. Only four times in their existence has the Union even made the playoffs, never getting beyond the Conference Quarterfinals.

So it figures that in 2020 when the Sons (and Daughters) of Ben pretty much had to stay home until just a few weeks ago when some 3,000 were permitted inside Subaru Park, they’d finally get it right. After $330 million man Bryce Harper and the Phillies with their $208 million payroll fizzled out with a 1-7 finish, while the Sixers flamed out during a first-round sweep by the hated Celtics and the Flyers ran out of steam in Game 7 vs. the Islanders, this might be the best we’ve got.

Of course, we’re still months away from knowing the fate of the NFC East-leading 3-4-1 Eagles, who might wind up running away with this sorry Division. Despite having a losing record coming out of their bye, it’s likely Carson Wentz & Co. will have to take a major pratfall to fail to become the first NFC East team since the 2005 ‘Birds to successfully defend their crown.

But beyond that, seriously, it’s hard to believe this team can become a legitimate Super Bowl threat.  Sure, there’s half a season to get it together, and yes, they would probably host a Wild Card week playoff game – barring a late change in the NFL playoff format. But compared to the Saints,  Packers, and Seahawks – each of whom are 6-1 and each of whom the Eagle will play over the next five weeks – the Eagles wouldn’t appear to stack up very well.

And that doesn’t even include the 8-0 Steelers, 7-1 Chiefs, and 7-2 Bills, most likely opponents, should they somehow make it out of the NFC to get to Tom Brady’s new Tampa Bay home, site of Super Bowl LV.

In other words, it might be a bit premature for Jason Kelce to get a new Mummers outfit to socially distance his way up Broad Street.

On the other hand – or in this case, foot – the Union might be the ones to end our latest championship drought. That’s assuming you don’t want to count Jay Wright’s 2018 Villanova Wildcats since there are those among their Big Five brethren (We’re talking about you Saint Joseph’s and LaSalle) who don’t necessarily root for them.

Yes, the team sponsored since 2011 by Bimbo Bakeries, whose Horsham, PA headquarters is located some 30 miles from Subaru Park, is now the team to beat in the MLS.  While Alejandro Bedoya, Brenden Aaronson, Kacper Przybylko, and Jamiro Monteiro won’t make anyone forget Wentz, Harper, Joel Embiid, Carter Hart, or any of their respective sidekicks, they have a real chance to surpass them within the lines, white or blue.

Here in Philadelphia, unlike Boston,  the San Francisco Bay area, and especially Los Angeles of late, championships simply don’t come in bunches. Perhaps that’s why we seem to revel in them so much because we don’t know how soon the next one will come along.

No one’s suggesting that to label the Philadelphia Union MLS champions sometime next month will trigger anything close to the same reaction. In reality, it might generate little more than a yawn.

But as long as they’ve come this far, as long as they’ve already hoisted that prestigious Supporter’s Shield, they might as well have drink from the MLS Cup too.

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It would be a moment as their main man himself, Ben Franklin, might say that would be “electric.”