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Union Face Celtic FC Tonight At PPL Park

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The Union play their first international friendly tonight as they face the famous Celtic FC from Glasgow, Scotland. The "Bhoys" as they're called even have their own local Philly supporters club that will surely be well represented. Their North American supporters club boasts over a million members. It should make for a great atmosphere tonight as the Celtic supporters compete with the Sons of Ben singing songs and trading barbs.

The atmosphere of having large groups of opposing fans is something that makes European soccer so great, but isn't really possible in this country. With euro countries being much smaller than the US, it's relatively easy for fans to see their teams in away games. Clubs often save sections specifically for traveling supporters of the other team. Just imagine how nuts an Eagles game would get if a whole section of the crowd was filled with Giants fan. You'd barely be able to hear it would be so noisy and raucous.

The history of a club like Celtic should be humbling to the Union. The hoops(another nickname) are former European champions and have won the Scottish League an amazing 42 times. The club enjoys huge support in the Irish & Scotch-Irish community, most of which are Catholic. This has historically played into their bitter rivalry with the crosstown Glasgow Rangers whose supporters are generally Protestant. Forbes named them the among the 20 most valuable soccer clubs in the world. This is a big club.

That said... for Celtic this isn't a terribly big game. They're more or less in their preseason and this game is one of their early warmups for their Champions' League campaign. However, Celtic manager Neil Lennon knows this will make for a tough match against a Union team in midseason form.

"The Philadelphia game will be important in just getting back into the groove, getting back into the fitness side of things. Allied to that, Philadelphia will give us a tough game. The players are just focused on getting some football time on the pitch as they have done quite a bit fitness work over the last week or so."

"And the boys know they will be in for a tough time because physically the MLS teams will be ahead of us at this time of the season."

Lennon also spoke well of the standard of play in MLS.

"I have a lot of time for the MLS, it’s a decent standard," he said. "America had a pretty good World Cup and have got some players that have come to prominence from the national team - and players who have interested us over the last year or two.

"We have played here before in America, and played MLS teams, such as New England, Tampa Bay and Washington - so there is good a standard.

Union Captain Danny Califf says the Union will be taking this exhibition match seriously.

"We’re going one game at a time, but when we’re finished playing San Jose, believe me, all of our focus will be on Celtic," defender Danny Califf said before Saturday’s match. "We won’t be thinking ahead to Toronto, or taking it lightly because it’s an exhibition. We’re going to treat it like it’s the most important game of the season."

Unfortunately, the game will not be televised.