Phoenix Rising FC‘s bid to rise from USL to MLS may have received a huge boost by the addition of former Chelsea and Montreal Impact striker Didier Drogba, who will finish his career on the pitch in the Valley before taking a role with the team’s front office.
Drogba, whose most recent time on the pitch with Montreal was limited to matches with favorable conditions, should enjoy the warm weather of Phoenix and the grassy field at the pop-up Phoenix Rising stadium. His role with the club includes what’s being called a “vested interest” with Phoenix Rising. The signing is a signal that USL should be taken seriously, both as a Division II league and as a feeder system to MLS. Phoenix Rising FC is one of 12 potential MLS expansion franchises, and the USL team certainly has come a long way in a year, from playing before small crowds at Peoria Stadium to selling out its first game on the east side of the Valley.
“I have taken my time in deciding what I wanted to do next and am really excited about the opportunity at Phoenix Rising FC,” Drogba said. “After seeing first hand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch. I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS.”
“The USL is a league on the rise, further demonstrated by the caliber of players who have recently joined our ranks,” said USL President Jake Edwards. “The addition of Drogba in Phoenix, as well as the numerous other world class and domestic players competing in the USL speaks volumes to the professional-quality environment our league continues to build.”
Drogba, a four-time Premier League champion and Champions League victor with Chelsea FC, joins a Phoenix Rising FC roster that includes Bravo, Chivas de Guadalajara’s all-time goal-scoring leader, and former England international Wright-Phillips.
“The professionalism, financial stability and growth of the USL has created an unprecedented platform for us to attract internationally acclaimed soccer players to Phoenix,” said Phoenix Rising FC Governor Berke Bakay. “Didier Drogba will help us express our appreciation for the tremendous partnership we have received from the League by serving as an ambassador for soccer on the pitch and within USL cities we will be visiting across North America.”
Image courtesy Montreal Impact.