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D.C., Red Bulls Lose Philadelphia-Area Fans
ESPN Soccernet, February 26th, 2008 3:45PM

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Philadelphia soccer fans will have some choosing to do when MLS announces the City of Brotherly Love as its 16th franchise, as expected on Thursday, says ESPN writer Ives Galarcep. Philadelphia has always been a soccer-rich area, producing such quality players as Reading's Bobby Convey, New England's Chris Albright and Jeff Parke and Jon Conway of the New York Red Bulls, but MLS fans in the region have thus far been forced to choose between either D.C. United or the Red Bulls, each about a two-hour drive from downtown Philly.

So, what's a fan to do? Turn against their former team of choice, or stick with the club they've supported for several years. For Bryan James, the decision wasn't easy, but once his city revealed its intention to enter MLS, he had an epiphany. "I realized ... this isn't my team anymore," the former D.C. United supporter said. James quit his allegiance to various D.C. United supporters' groups and decided to start one for Philadelphia fans. Called Sons of Ben, the group now has more than 1,500 registered members; James is the president.

His situation is hardly unique. James reckons that between 30 and 50 percent of the group's base supported either D.C. United or the Red Bulls before becoming members of Sons of Ben. The Red Bulls' Parke, for one, is looking forward to extending the New York-Philadelphia rivalry that exists in so many professional sports to soccer. "Now, New York fans will have two more games where they can go at it with fans from the other team," the Red Bulls defender said. "The same with D.C., so I'm pretty excited to see how well the team does because I know the soccer fans are there."

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