On the heels of a successful regular season, a USL postseason appearance may boost Phoenix Rising FC‘s MLS expansion profile.
Currently competing in the Division II USL, Phoenix Rising FC is seen as a formidable contender for a future MLS expansion slot. It features a strong ownership group, along with a plan for a new soccer-specific stadium (rendering shown above), and has had success at the USL ranks.
Since opening a new pop-up stadium last year, the club has been solid on the attendance front. That included an average of 6,127 fans per game in 2017—good for sixth in USL attendance—followed by a per-game average of 6,380 in 2018. Now the club is competing in the USL playoffs, which has given it a chance to raise its profile for MLS. On-field success in the USL is not itself a factor in MLS expansion, but a playoff game in front of an announced crowd of 7,511 last Friday gave Phoenix and its boosters an opportunity to show MLS officials first hand how much the club’s fan support has grown over the past two seasons. More from ABC 15:
“It’s a great extension of the season. It’s great for the brand,” Phoenix Rising general manager Bobby Dulle said. “You see the buzz, the excitement on social media with our fans. There’s a lot of excitement right now, and a run in the postseason certainly helps our cause.”
In July, Phoenix Rising’s ownership group traveled to New York City to meet with MLS officials to discuss their pitch for an expansion club. Last week, Rising returned the favor by hosting MLS officials at Friday’s playoff match.
Dulle said the timing of the visit couldn’t have been more perfect.
“Our crowd came out and they showed the appetite for professional soccer here in this market,” he said. “The level of play on the field and the passion and the energy, and everyone wearing our jerseys and chanting and singing — I think they came away very impressed, all in all, from Friday night.”
Our own Kevin Reichard took an in-depth look at the Phoenix Rising FC MLS expansion pitch earlier this year. There is a lot to be determined about the next round of MLS expansion, and where Phoenix will stand in that mix. However, the club looks at least looks on paper to have several factors in its favor–including the strength of its market, backing of a solid ownership group, plans for a new stadium, and an increasingly successful USL operation. We took a closer look at MLS expansion candidates in a story last week.
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