Following every move of the new-look Phillies as they storm back to greatness? Tracking the post-“Process” Sixers and their hyped playoff run? Apologies to those who kept up with the Flyers, whose the season at .500 this year. Add nonstop updates about the Eagles roster moves, and it’s not an easy time to keep up with sports — aka a required component of cultural life in Philly.
What if we told you there are *even more* local teams out there? There’s lots more talented athletes on which exuberant fans can shower love, and several less-known brands to which hip contrarians can attach their bandwagons.
In alphabetical order, here’s the surprisingly long list of Philadelphia’s professional sports teams.
Super Bowl LII in 2018 was the first time the Eagles were awarded the Lombardi Trophy, but not the first time the team won the NFL championship. After being founded in 1933 — and after briefly combining with Pittsburgh’s team to become the “Steagles” after WW II — the team took the national title three times in the mid-20th century. Home turf Franklin Field was shifted to Veterans Stadium in 1971, and then to the current Lincoln Financial Field in 2003. Next season kicks off September 5.
Founded in 1967 as an NHL expansion team, the Flyers have had their fair share of highs and lows. With goaltender Bernie Parent at the helm, the Broad Street Bullies proved their mettle in the 1970s, earning back-to-back Stanley Cups at the Ed Snider-led Spectrum. The bright spot in the current stretch of playoff-less seasons out of new home Wells Fargo Center has certainly been Gritty, the bizarre, mangled mascot who’s taken the world by storm.
Named after a team she was on in the 1974 inaugural season of Worth TeamTennis, the modern iteration of Billie Jean King’s Philadelphia Freedoms launched in 2001. After playing in various arenas, the legendary feminist player finally landed her squad in Philly proper in 2017. The mixed-gender Freedoms now call Hagen Arena at St. Joseph’s University home court, and qualified for a championship last year. The 14-match season kicks off in July.
One of the inaugural teams in the global Overwatch League, the Fusion was founded in late 2017. Owners Comcast Specator, a division of the media giant that also owns the Flyers, recently announced construction of a $50-million arena for the team in the South Philly sports complex, slated to be complete by 2021. Currently, players live in a team house in Los Angeles and compete at the Blizzard Arena in Burbank — last year they made it to the Grand Finals. Fun fact? There’s a meme specialist on staff.
There’s 136 years of history behind the city’s MLB team, which was known as the Quakers when the league was established in 1883. An Inquirer article published that same year used the nickname “Phillies,” and it stuck, becoming official in 1890. The ballplayers have had streaks of success, including a time in the ’50s when they played at Shibe Park and were known as the “Whiz Kids.” Things at Citizens Bank Park got quiet after the 2008 World Series win, but this year’s Bryce Harper-infused energy has fans singing high hopes.
Phoenix, ultimate frisbee
Yep, professional ultimate frisbee teams exist, and Philly has been home to one since 2012, when it became a founding member of the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL). Playing at Garthwaite Stadium in Conshohocken, the squad hasn’t had a winning record in six years, but things are trending up. The 30-person roster kicks off a season versus the New York Empire in late April — and tickets are very affordable.
Already owner and CEO of a women’s basketball team in Atlanta, Philadelphia native Tamika Milburn decided to bring the sport to her home city for the first time in two decades. Her Philadelphia Reign will play in the WBDA pro league, starting its inaugural season in May out of Chestnut Hill College’s Sorgenti Arena with former WNBA player Tanae Davis-Cain as head coach.
After being established in 1946 as the Syracuse Nationals, the team relocated to Philly in 1963 and were named the 76ers after a fan contest. A series of basketball greats made the team’s presence unforgettable, including Wilt Chamberlain, Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Allen Iverson. This decade, an infamous effort to tank in order to get good draft picks inspired the rallying cry “Trust the Process” — which appears to have worked. Led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the team has seen two winning seasons and holds hopes for more.
Although this AFL team was started by Jon Bon Jovi in 2004, it’s been headed by former Eagle Ron Jaworski for the past eight years, so the lack of love the Soul gets from Philly fans is less excusable. Especially since the team is really good: They’ve made it to four ArenaBowls and are three-time champions, including a recent back-to-back streak. New season starts late April at the Wells Fargo Center.
Thanks to loud and effective rallying from the local support group Sons of Ben (Doooooooop!) the Philadelphia region welcomed its first MLS franchise in 2008 — albeit with the home stadium sequestered away from the rest of the pro teams out in Chester. The expansion team began playing at Talen Energy Stadium in 2010, where they managed a winning record last year for the very first time. Matches are underway now through early fall.
The current iteration of the Wings was founded by Comcast Spectator in 2017 as an expansion team, returning NLL play to Philadelphia after a decades-long hiatus. A lacrosse team under that name first played in Philly back in 1974. It only was around for a year, but then came back for a run that lasted through the turn of the millennium before being relocated to New England. The current team trails the league in standings.