The 2023 season is right around the corner and the Philadelphia Union will need to be ready for an unprecedented year. Philly has four major competitions to play in 2023; they will play in the MLS Regular season, Concacaf Champions League (CCL), Leagues Cup, and Open Cup. The team is set to play in 50+ games this season; can the Union succeed playing so many matches?
Union ’23 MLS Schedule is here!
The 2023 MLS schedule is out for Philly, and there are some good games to watch for the coming season! Of course, everyone’s eye goes right to September 23rd when LAFC comes to Chester. The rematch of last season’s 2022 MLS Cup Final could be a highlight of the season. However, there are some other crucial stretches of games that could determine if Philadelphia will be able to achieve its goal this season of winning a trophy.
The toughest stretch of the season, on paper, is Philly’s July slate. Road games at Atlanta, LA Galaxy, and Nashville, then at home to NYCFC all leading into the month-long Leagues Cup competition. Just past the mid-point of the 2023 season, the Union will definitely have completed their CCL journey and could be in the midst of a deep US Open Cup run. How the team handles juggling all these competitions will determine the level of success they achieve in 2023.
The beginning of the ’23 regular season will also be the same time Philly tries to go on a CCL run. The beginning of June will bring the Open Cup. From mid-July to mid-August the Leagues Cup takes over. For Philly to have success in ’23, they’ll need to be prepared to balance when these competitions are going on at the same time as the regular season. Depth of roster and mental strength will be needed if this team is to have success.
A possible Concacaf Champions League run?
The Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 will take place in the first few weeks of March. This is when the Union will take on Alianza FC from El Salvador; the two-leg playoff system sees Philly go to El Salvador on March 7th, and play at home in the return leg on March 14th.
The Quarter-finals are set for April 4th and 11th; the Semi-finals are scheduled to be played on April 25th and May 2nd, and the two-legged final will take place on May 31st and June 4th. Could the Union make a run to the Seni-finals as they did back in 2021, or go even further? If so their form may drop in the regular season.
We’ve seen it before, teams that go on long runs in the Champions League tend to suffer in MLS play. Could this happen to Philly? We know that they went on a run in 2021, and still had a great ’21 regular season, but there was no Open Cup or Leagues Cup that season. Now Philly will have to think about those competitions too.
The first-ever Leagues Cup
The Leagues Cup is a new completion featuring MLS and Liga MX clubs. It’s a group-style tournament that we’ll see for the first time from mid-July to mid-August. The tournament will start with a group stage that features three-team groups for a group stage. the first matches are set to begin on July 21st, but the main details on the matches and even the full groups have yet to be announced.
We know that since the Union finished second in all of MLS last year they’ll be in the first Group of Leagues Cup “Group 1.” They’ll also have Mexican side Tijuana which finished 16th in Liga MX, but the third team in the group is yet to be decided. Hopefully, things will be all ironed out soon so the competition won’t feel in flux.
The Union will play at least two games in the competition in the Group stage. Should they advance, the tournament then turns to a knockout round competition at a Round of 32 stage. It will be single elimination at that point, making the max amount of games in the tournament for Philly will be set at seven matches. Could this be another competition Philly has their sights set on winning?
A return to Open Cup glory?
The Union returns to US Open Cup play in ’23, and many fans hope to see the team make a run as they did in years past. Philly’s ’14, ’15, and ’18 runs to the final ended in heartbreak and was back when the team was not very good in the regular season.
It’s true that this tournament is the easiest path to a trophy, winning five single-elimination games will earn you this prestigious trophy, and it’s one that Philly will rue from last season. They fell in their first match against Orlando in the Round of 32, but if the ad won that match, the road to the final was paved with teams Philly was familiar with and were better than (Miami, Nashville, and Red Bulls) and the final was against USL Championship side Sacramento Republic. Orlando ended up hoisting the US Open Cup after beating the Union and then all those teams. In 2023, Philly’s easiest route to a trophy will lie in the Open Cup year again.
We don’t know yet when MLS teams will join the field in the US Open Cup for 2023, but what is true is that Philly will want to prioritize this tournament if they want to win a trophy in ’23. With the team being in win-now mode and the depth of the team being promising and strong, there’s no reason why the Union can’t go on a run to the Cup in this historic tournament!
The Union needs to win a Trophy in 2023
We are now less than two months from the start of the 2023 season for the Philadelphia Union. The club is expecting to play in more than 50 matches this year across four competitions, and while that is ambitious, it means nothing if they cannot win one of the four competitions that they will take part in.
2022 was an incredible year with record-breaking results, but in the end, it won’t be looked back on fondly. Losing the Supporters Shield on a wins tiebreaker, and the MLS Cup in penalties to LAFC means that this team has nothing to show for their efforts. This game is cruel and success is only measured by the silverware in the cabinet at the end of the campaign.
In 2023, Philly will be poised to exorcise the demons of ’22. The core of their team is still intact and there is reinforcement coming in according to sporting director Ernst Tanner. this team needs a trophy in 2023, last year it was MLS Cup or bust after falling one game short of the Final in ’21. They made the final in ’22 but dramatically failed; now in ’23, they have MLS, CCL, Leagues Cup, and Open Cup competitions. If they were to go on a historic run and win them all they would play a maximum of 59 matches in the coming year.
While that’s unlikely, the goal for Philly is to be competitive in all of the competitions and lift a trophy in 2023. We have just 61 days to wait for the kickoff of this crazy ambitious campaign!
Be sure to return to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union and other soccer content!
Follow our Union team on Twitter:
Doop on Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire