The rich tradition of Bethlehem Steel FC was reincarnated in 2015 by the Philadelphia Union as the club’s official affiliate in the United Soccer League. The Union became the ninth team in MLS to independently own and operate a USL club, but were adamant on individually branding their newest outfit.
Plans for the club were officially announced on Aug. 19, 2015 at a press conference outside of Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University. The team’s name, crest and colors would be unveiled at a later date pending a fan vote.
The online fan vote opened on Sept. 8 at both The Morning Call’s website and PhiladelphiaUnion.com. Fans overwhelmingly chose Bethlehem Steel FC over Lehigh Valley Steel SC, Steel FC and Lehigh Valley Blast and the club was officially born on Oct. 27, 2015.
The Bethlehem Steel FC crest pulls elements from the club’s historic badge, ushering the brand into a new era. The classic I-beam foundation returned, stretching upward to serve as a monument to the past. Steel red then mixed with Philadelphia Union blue and gold, combining in a unified color.
The Union rattlesnake, found in historical Ben Franklin political cartoons, emphasizes the need for Unity and it envelopes the Steel I-beam, linking together the icons of two clubs. Rivets in the crest fold together the two identities, strengthening the bond between MLS and USL. A leather soccer balls anchors the badge, rooting the new identity to the pitch.
The club officially began to take shape on the pitch when they hired Brendan Burke as head coach two days later on Oct. 29. A former Union assistant coach and Reading United head coach, Burke had been in the Union family for six years prior to leaving before the 2015 season.
On Dec. 3, Burke signed his first player – Union academy product Derrick Jones. Burke and Jones together epitomized what Bethlehem Steel FC can become, a family link from the youth level to the first team.
The new Bethlehem Steel FC’s played it's first-ever game against FC Montreal on March 25, 2016, earning the club's first victory, 1-0, on the road. A week later, Steel FC played in its home opener on April 3, 2016.
After an inaugural season that saw the club win six matches but come up short in its quest for the USL postseason, 2017 saw Coach Burke guide the squad to the biggest jump in the Eastern Conference. In route to the club's first USL Cup Playoffs appearance, Steel FC picked up 12 victories and 44 points, Burke aided the team to a historic eight-match unbeaten streak during the season and helped the club rack up six victories away from Goodman Stadium. Steel FC made its postseason debut on October 20, 2017 at eventual champion Louisville City FC.