On the heels of a successful USL campaign, Phoenix Rising FC says it is still focused on its MLS expansion bid.
Phoenix emerged onto the MLS expansion scene early this year, when it submitted a bid that called for a new stadium to be constructed at the site of its “pop-up” USL facility. That was an early step in a year that saw the club make several strides–including the addition of Chelsea and Montreal Impact striker Didier Drogba, and the recent acquisition of the Premier Development League’s FC Tucson.
The club went on to make the USL playoffs, and achieved success in bringing fans out to matches. (Our USL attendance numbers show Phoenix Rising FC with a per-game average of 6,127, good for sixth in the league.) With these elements and a stadium plan in place, Rising chief operating officer Bobby Dulle believes the club has the ability to grow with an MLS entry. More from The Arizona Republic:
The stadium, which holds around 7,000 people, sits on a plot of land owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community — and the club already has preliminary plans to build a privately funded, MLS-size stadium in the current location of its existing complex.
“We have a location, and we couldn’t ask for a better spot in Arizona,” Dulle said. “The biggest thing was establishing a home that was ours. If we are awarded an MLS team, the ability to grow is there.”
Talks of the MLS coming to Phoenix are very real. Over the summer, league executives made a trip to the Valley to assess the feasibility of an MLS franchise under the Rising’s current ownership.
“There’s a very good chance Phoenix would be in the top four choices,” said Anthony Evans, a senior researcher at L. William Seidman Research Institute at Arizona State.
In our most recent MLS expansion odds, Phoenix came in at 3-1, behind only Sacramento, Nashville, Detroit, and Cincinnati. It was noted that there is some uncertainty within the Phoenix area sports market, with the “Suns, Diamondbacks and Coyotes all seeking new or renovated facilities, and there may not be the sports marketing dollars from area corporations to allow for a new MLS stadium and associated sponsorship/naming rights. But Phoenix Rising ownership has quietly laid the groundwork to land an MLS expansion franchise, and there’s really not much of a gap between the #1 and #5 cities in our list.” MLS is expected to make an expansion announcement in December.
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