Much like the team name itself, the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, rose from the desert landscape quickly and majestically in a span of just 53 days. With it, rose the hopes and aspirations of many of the valley’s long suffering soccer fans desperate for a professional club for which to support. Club Governor and owner Berke Bakay assembled an eclectic and powerful ownership group consisting of world famous DJ, Diplo, Fall Out Boy Bassist, Pete Wentz, MLB Player, Brandon McCarthy and other local Phoenix titans of industry to buy the USL (division II soccer) club Arizona United Soccer Club and completely remake the club into a viable expansion option for soccer’s highest professional league in the U.S., Major League Soccer (MLS).
Bakay was tasked with the almost impossible task of finding the club a new home to play in and a buzz big enough to attract MLS attention as it strives to be one of the MLS newest 4 expansion cities in an already hotly contested expansion process which includes 11 other U.S cities.
After the building rights were secured for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community land located just off Curry Rd. on the intersection of the 101 and 202 freeways, construction on the 6,200 seat Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex began. The complex is located in south Scottsdale, just north of the Tempe border. The club changed names to Phoenix Rising FC, attracted world renowned players in Omar Bravo and Shaun Wright-Phillips, and began playing in front of enthusiastic fans on their home turf in late March 2017.
People in the soccer community began to take notice. A strong bid from the 5th largest city in the nation and the largest city without an MLS team with a large Latino and Millennial community would surely be a horse worth betting on in terms of MLS expansion. But that wasn’t the only trick Bakay had up his sleeve to impress MLS. Using his former connections in his homeland of Turkey and his former boyhood club Galatasaray FC, he was able to get the ear and attention of a soccer icon and former Chelsea legend, Didier Drogba. Drogba flew to Arizona in January, before the stadium even began construction and an idea was formed. Drogba, who had offers to play for numerous clubs throughout the globe, would not only be signed to the club as a player but also be given ownership rights as part owner of the team. It was a bold and innovative offer that Drogba couldn’t pass up. Bringing MLS to Phoenix was something he was ready to get behind and support. Phoenix Rising FC saw the debut of Didier Drogba as a player June 10th as Rising FC took on Vancouver Whitecaps II. Drogba scored a goal and assisted on another, Rising FC won 2-1 and the highlights went around the world and surely throughout the MLS headquarters in Manhattan.
MLS executives visited Phoenix in May and saw first-hand the level of passion already on display in the valley and the yearning for a top-level professional team. The plot of land where the current Phoenix Rising FC stadium sits will be used for a large soccer complex complete with a 20,000+ climate controlled soccer specific stadium. Private funding has already been promised with the help of banking giant Goldman Sachs and a partnership with the Native American community. A financial plan which eliminates the need for public financing will hopefully, for the sake of Phoenix Rising FC and its legion of new fans, put its bid ahead of the other cities vying for expansion.
The road to be one of those four expansion MLS cities is hard and won’t be easy to traverse as MLS is expected to announce two of those four clubs at the end of this year, with inclusion into the league in 2020.
Phoenix Rising FC along with their ownership group hope that they have put together a bid which MLS can’t ignore as their new fans hope they can keep riding this new wave of soccer momentum all the way to the MLS. Stay tuned!
Phoenix Rising has games scheduled through mid-October. All home games begin at 7:30 p.m. Visit the Phoenix Rising FC website for the schedule, ticket information and other details about this exciting team.
If you attend a home game, don’t miss the official Pre-Match Party at Thirsty Lion Gastropub and Grill at Tempe Marketplace. Fans enjoy happy hour specials for cocktails, draft beer and food from 3-6 p.m. Also, take advantage of Thirsty Lion’s free shuttle to and from Phoenix Rising FC games. Happy hour specials are also available post game, from 9 p.m. to close.