Phoenix Rising FC Makes its MLS Expansion Case to Mark Abbott

Phoenix Rising FC stadium rendering

Phoenix Rising FC appears to have made a strong impression on MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott, who met with the organization during a visit on Tuesday. 

One of 12 expansion candidates in the mix, Phoenix Rising FC has been making its case for an expansion franchise, with plans for a new climate-controlled stadium and the size of its market being among the focal points of its pitch. The visit from Abbott and other MLS officials gave the organization a chance to offer more details about its bid, and to showcase the stadium site in Scottsdale.

In his remarks, Abbott had complimentary words about both Phoenix Rising FC and the region. He noted not only the solid support for the USL club, but the area’s interest in the sport of soccer as a whole. More from ABC 15:

“There’s no substitute for coming out and really seeing the passion in a community, and I felt that very greatly, from the first meeting I had this morning to the outpouring of support that we have here this afternoon,” Abbott said following his visit Tuesday. “It’s really been a wonderful day and one that has given us to lot to think about.”

In January, Phoenix Rising became one of 12 teams around the country that filed an application for an expansion MLS team. Of all 12 metro areas that had teams submit an application, Phoenix is No. 1 in terms of current population, projected population in 2030, current population under age 45 and current Hispanic population. It’s also one of the largest American TV markets without an MLS club.

But Abbott said numbers only tell part of the story, which is why his visit to the Valley was crucial as MLS continues to gather information before deciding which clubs will be awarded expansion franchises.

“You can read statistics, you can look at articles and all that, and that gives you a sense of a market, but when you meet with people here, particularly people in positions of leadership, and you hear how excited they are about what’s happening with Phoenix Rising, how interested they are to see what they can do to support an effort to bring an MLS team, that’s only something you can do in person,” he said.

Phoenix Rising FC’s expansion bid came after the organization underwent a considerable amount of change in a short time. Last year, Arizona United SC was purchased by a group that included Berke Bakay, which was followed months later by an announcement  on a new name, and then plans for a “pop-up” facility that could be replaced by a larger stadium down the road. The club has been a solid draw this season, averaging 6,612 fans per game through four matches.

MLS is still in the process of evaluating expansion candidates, and the first two clubs from this round of expansion are not expected to join the league until 2020. An additional pair of organizations would debut at a later date.

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