The Philadelphia Union is more than a professional soccer team, it’s an “ecosystem.” Below the first team, which plays in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, and the second team, the Bethlehem Steel of the United Soccer League, are six youth development teams, ranging from U-12 to U-18, which comprise the Philadelphia Union Youth Academy.
The mission of the Academy is to develop next-generation athletes, on and off the field. Apart from tactical and technical soccer training, players are given academic, nutritional, and medical support. They are asked to lead by example and adopt the ethos and culture of the team. The Union has embraced innovation into their program, embedding sports science and technology throughout the process. The Union, led by Sporting Director Earnie Stewart, is laser focused on developing “home grown” talent with individual development plans that look to improve each player across a variety of core skills to ultimately gives them the opportunity to become a first team player.
Organizing 125 athletes in diverse age groups is no small task—“kind of a nightmare,” says Maura Ryan, the Union’s head of Academy Operations. But at the end of 2015, Maura and the Union found help in the form of SAP Sports One, a sports-specific cloud software solution that has enabled ecosystem-wide communication for the Union. Says Maura, “SAP Sports One has helped to reinforce that the player is truly at the center of the Union’s mission.”
The Philadelphia Union Academy uses SAP Sports One to enable ecosystem-wide communication
“Creating a common platform across the Union’s enterprise was step one,” explains Jim Cullen, director of Business Development for SAP Sports. “But ultimately, the true purpose of the platform was to help the Union deliver on their key mission and their Youth Development Model.”
Navigating the Union Ecosystem in Real Time
As head of Academy Operations, Maura is responsible for scheduling, transportation, registration, attendance, equipment procurement, and general communications for the entire youth program. Prior to adopting SAP Sports One, she didn’t really have a platform for team-wide messaging. At their training facility and on the road at tournaments, communication gaps were frequent. The Union was looking for an integrated channel for managing player information and movement across each of their eight teams. SAP Sports One has given the Union the unification they need to execute as an organization and ensure they are aligned at every level for success on the pitch.
The teams are using SAP Sports One for a variety of functions. A central calendar displays the schedules of all 8 teams. Travel and cross-team logistics are made easier with detailed player profiles, which provide information on everything from statistics and shirt size to passports and health insurance. The platform also has modules for Training, Video Analysis, and Scouting, which are part of the Union’s plans down the road.
The Union uses SAP Sports One for functions like scheduling, travel, cross-team logistics and communications
But the greatest benefit of the solution for the Union thus far has been streamlined communications. Team managers like Maura can set up event-specific communication rooms, where players and stakeholders can go to get the most up-to-date information on team meetings, dress code, transportation, and game strategy. There is no worrying about outdated email chains or group chats. The solution has a delivery confirmation function as well, so team managers know when the message has been received.
“Most MLS soccer teams are struggling with challenges similar to the Union,” says Frank Wheeler, VP and general manager for SAP Sports and Entertainment North America. “SAP Sports One has given them the ability to use the latest in data platform technology to simplify their business, and we are confident that this will help them be more successful both on and off the pitch.”
As the Union have found, a sports-specific solution like SAP Sports One provides the data storage, access, and real-time capabilities needed to increase efficiencies, win more games, and “Run Simple”.
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