FC Tucson: City gains momentum on spring soccer

MLS gives Tucson more clout; final to get national TV
2012-10-18T00:00:00Z FC Tucson: City gains momentum on spring soccerDave Ord Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 18, 2012 12:00 am  • 

For the organizers of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, it's just the first 15 minutes of the match. There's much more ground to cover with fresh players ready to enter the competition.

Last week, the four MLS teams - a new Northwest kid on the block, the Seattle Sounders, along with old hands in the New York Red Bulls, the New England Revolution and Real Salt Lake - were announced as the participants in February's third annual version of the event.

But that's just part of what will be a busy MLS spring training at Kino Sports Complex.

Here's a look at what's kicking:

Creating "Hub"-bub. MLS recently designated Tucson as the "Western Hub" of spring training. It will pair with the "Eastern Hub," Orlando, Fla., to make up the two key places for MLS teams to prepare for the regular season. It's soccer's version of baseball's Cactus and Grapefruit leagues.

"That means Major League Soccer has decided to brand the preseason and create an important event out of it," said Greg Foster, co-managing partner of FC Tucson, the organizer of the MLS spring visit. "The league is very interested in the concept that all teams now rotate either through Arizona or Florida for preseason. That's a big deal for Tucson."

In addition to the four doubleheaders that make up the cup, there will be nine scheduled matches involving five additional MLS teams that will be rotating through Tucson. Those matches will be at Kino Sports Complex Field No. 5 on the north side of Ajo Way.

Entering a new field. Last week, Pima County announced that a $2 million stadium will be built on one of the Kino fields north of Ajo.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the money will come from the $5 million that the Chicago White Sox paid to end their contract so they could move from Kino Stadium to Glendale after the 2008 season.

The field, which organizers expect to be completed by fall 2013, will seat about 3,000 and put fans closer to the game.

"Fans are really going to see how players and teams and coaches prepare. It's an inside look," Foster said. "They might see games that are four 30-minute periods. … They might hear the coaches making the adjustments in real time."

In addition to the new stadium, all the fields north of Ajo have been permanently converted to soccer, which was the MLS teams' biggest concern after training in Tucson last spring.

Grabbing serious airtime. Organizers also announced the Feb. 23 final of the Desert Diamond Cup will be telecast live on the NBC Sports Network.

"That's 2 1/2 hours of prime-time television on a Saturday night," Foster said "It will be an 8 o'clock Eastern Coast time start, so it'll be hitting a big market."

Rick Schantz, an FC Tucson co-managing partner, said start times for the two matches in the Saturday cup doubleheaders will be 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., two hours earlier than the start times at last spring's cup.

"This is at the level of Accenture, this is at the level of the rodeo," Foster said. "We've got a national TV broadcast, we've got large numbers of hotel rooms being consumed by teams, and we've got a very significant spectator event.

"It's great that the county backs it in this way. It's great that Major League Soccer is committed in this way and that the teams basically want this to happen, too."

2013 FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup schedule

• Feb. 13: New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders, New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake

• Feb. 16: Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake, 4 p.m.; New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution, 6 p.m.

• Feb. 20: Real Salt Lake vs. New England Revolution, Seattle Sounders vs. New York Red Bulls

• Feb. 23: Third-place match, 4 p.m.; final, 6 p.m.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Latest Video

More videos

State House LD2 candidate: Chris Ackerley

Chris Ackerley discusses voter concerns, including education.




Follow the Arizona Daily Star


Deals, offers & events

View more...