Phoenix to be considered for Major League Soccer expansion franchise

Posted at 3:35 PM, Jan 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-26 17:49:09-05

Could the Valley soon be home to another professional sports franchise?

Phoenix Rising FC, which will compete in the Division 2 United Soccer League next season, has been invited by Major League Soccer to submit an application to create an MLS franchise in Phoenix, the team said Thursday.

Phoenix is among at least 11 cities that will compete for one of two MLS expansion franchises to be announced later this year. Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Diego, San Antonio and Tampa/St. Petersburg have also been invited to apply for a franchise.

The two new franchises will begin play during the 2020 MLS season.

"MLS has considered Phoenix to be an attractive soccer market for many years," said MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott. "In fact, we visited Phoenix and toured potential stadium sites 13 years ago, including the site recently secured by Phoenix Rising FC within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in south Scottsdale."

Phoenix Rising FC governor Berke Bakay led a group of investors to purchase Arizona United Soccer Club in August. Bakay rebranded the team as Phoenix Rising and negotiated the creation of a new 16-acre soccer stadium complex in south Scottsdale.

"It has always been our intention to bring Division 1 professional soccer to Arizona," Bakay said. "But we need every soccer fan, business and community leader to quickly come together and support our application effort in order to achieve this incredible goal for our state."

MLS was founded in 1993 and currently fields 22 teams -- 19 in the United States and three in Canada. The Seattle Sounders are the defending MLS champions.