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New Rivalries Born

If Major League Soccer is all about rivalries, the addition of the Philadelphia Union as its 16th franchise is another positive step in that direction.

First think of the Pacific Northwest, where Seattle Sounders FC will be joined next season by Portland and Vancouver. Sounders co-owner Drew Carey jokingly referred to the trio as "the triangle of death" at last November's MLS Cup. Now group the Union, which was announced by the league on Feb. 28, 2008, with the New York Red Bulls and D.C.

United, and the possibilities for another fierce rivalry are endless.

Take it from the LA Galaxy's native New Yorkers, Edson Buddle and Bruce Arena, and New Jersey's Gregg Berhalter -- league officials made a smart move in putting the league's newest franchise into the so-called city of brotherly love.

"I think it's great," Berhalter said. "There are some real dedicated soccer fans there. Looking at the response to their first home game (at Lincoln Financial Field) was unbelievable. "The goal is to get a concentration of teams in one area to get some rivalries, like they're going to do in the northwest. It's what we have here with Chivas. You add Philly and Red Bulls to it, with D.C. not far away, and you start creating some interesting games.

"Having Philly is an important part of that. I like it."

Buddle, who grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., about a 2 1/2-hour drive from Philadelphia, also was pleased to see a franchise in Philadelphia, even though he's never been to the city. "I've just been to the train station on my way to D.C.," he said with a grin.

Buddle did say he was pleased to see the league expand in that part of the country, mostly because it's closer to his home.

"There's a lot of soccer in that area, so it's important," he said."I think the fans deserve it. It will be even better once they build their own stadium."

The Union's home field, 18,000-seat PPL Stadium, is scheduled to open in July.

"You're probably going to see a lot of fans from Philly when they play in D.C., and a lot of D.C. fans in Philly," Buddle said. "Hopefully there won't be any fights or brawls, but we like that as players, when fans are getting into it.

"It makes you play harder, especially if you're at home and you know the fans are behind you."

Arena, who grew up in the Bronx, said he didn't spend much time in Philadelphia as a youth and went there only when his college team, Cornell, played Penn in soccer and lacrosse.

"I don't know Philly that well," he said, "even though a bunch of my Cornellians reside there. I think the rivalry is fabulous ... the 95 rivalry with New York, Philadelphia and D.C.

"I think it will be very similar to what we'll be doing on the West Coast, obviously with L.A., San Jose and Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. And Chivas in our backyard.

"And maybe we'll add San Diego that mix. That would be a fabulous rivalry."