It took nearly a year to come to fruition, but the Union have hired a sporting director in former U.S Men's National Team midfielder and AZ Alkmaar director of football affairs Earnie Stewart.
"In searching for a sporting director, we defined specific criteria we were looking for a candidate to fulfill," said Union owner Jay Sugarman. "Earnie rated highly on all our key metrics. His understanding of the international soccer landscape and viewpoint on Major League Soccer, combined with his experience in player development and strong work ethic, make Earnie an excellent fit for this important role."
According to the team, Stewart will "oversee and guide all Union technical and soccer-related decisions working closely with the Union First Team, USL team and Youth Academy." He was also selected for his, "innovation, player recruitment, and player development methodology."
"I am thrilled with the opportunity to come to the Philadelphia Union and help create a winning team which the fans can identify with," Stewart said. "I look forward to working with everyone at the Union to establish a clear playing philosophy and use my experience to create a competitive edge in our methods of recruiting and developing players at all levels of the club, from the Academy up through the First Team."
The move is effective on Jan. 1, 2016. Chris Albright is expected to stay on as technical director and work under Stewart. Union manager Jim Curtin is also expected to remain on the job.
After retiring in 2005, Stewart, now 46, took a front-office job with VVV-Venlo, a second-tier club in the Netherlands, where Stewart was born. After helping land VVV in second place - a rare occurrence for the club, Stewart was picked up by then first-division NAC Breda.
Finding front-office success with a "moneyball" style, Stewart, who won the MLS Cup with D.C. United as a player in 2003, worked as technical director of AZ Alkmaar in 2010, where he left to join the Union.
Stewart has connections to the Union, spending time on the USMNT alongside Union assistant coach Mike Sorber Albright in the 1990s and early 2000s. He has captured 101 caps for his national team.
"From the first moment I spoke with the Union about the direction they wanted to go I was excited about the long term opportunity and my ability to help execute on our shared vision," Stewart said. "I will work my hardest to hit the ground running for the Union and be ready for the important decisions the club will make entering the 2016 season."