As disappointing as last season was for the large part, we can’t help but miss the beloved Swans. Still, it’s only five weeks until the first pre-season game. Paul Clement’s men will first travel to Barnet before heading to America for the pre-season tour and will then playing Birmingham City and Sampdoria on their return.
During the US tour, the Jacks will face MLS side Philadelphia Union on July 15th, Richmond Kickers on July 19th and North Carolina on July 22nd. We decided to delve into each of the pre-season opponents, starting with those across the North Atlantic.
Philadelphia Union were founded just nine years ago, back in 2008. The U began in 2010 as an expansion team of the league and currently reside in 9th place in the Eastern Conference. They play their home games at the Talen Energy Stadium, marginally smaller than the Liberty with a capacity of 18,500. They’re no stranger to English opposition and played both Crystal Palace and Bournemouth last summer, drawing 0-0 and losing 4-1 respectively.
There’s also a familiar face in the U roster, former Arsenal, Milwall, West Brom, QPR and Hull forward Jay Simpson now plays his trade for the MLS side. Simpson has three goals in nine games to his name this season. Georginio Wijnaldum’s younger brother, Giliano, plays for the side as a left-back. The club’s all time top scorer is Sébastien Le Toux with 50 goals in two separate spells, however, the Frenchman now plays his trade for Washington side DC United.
The Richmond Kickers are quite a lot older than Philadelphia Union, though still no-where as near as old as the mighty Swans, the Virginia based side were founded in 1993 and are one of the oldest continuously run soccer clubs in America. They play at the City Stadium which boasts a capacity of 22,611, though this can be limited to just 9,000. The Kickers average crowds between 2,000-4,000, perhaps highlighting the popularity of soccer in America compared to that in England.
Currently residing in 14th place in the USL, the second tier of American soccer, the Kickers are enjoying a less than successful season. That said, they proved to be no push overs last summer. The Swans fell to a 2-0 defeat to the Kickers.
North Carolina play their trade in the North American Soccer League, the second tier of the American soccer pyramid, equal to the USL where the Kickers reside. The club were in founded in 2006 and up until December last year, were known as the Carolina RailHawks, however, underwent a name change amid plans for a MLS franchise. The club play their home games at WakeMed Soccer Park.
They are currently in 4th place and are enjoying a pretty sound season. Former Oldham defender Paul Black regularly starts for the side and may well feature against the Swans. The club attracted a record attendance of over 10,000 during a pre-season game against West Ham last summer with the game finishing 2-2.