Take a look at the standings and you’d think FC Tucson has little to play for in its remaining two league matches.
The club qualified for the postseason two matches ago and leads the USL Premier Development League’s Mountain Division by six points with little chance of anyone catching the men in black.
But there’s a bigger picture, a Diego Rivera mural-sized picture. The better its record, the more rounds of the playoffs FC Tucson can host.
The club (9-2-1) will only be taking its foot off the brake to slam it back down on the gas as the final regular-season straightaway begins tonight with a 7:30 start against Albuquerque Sol FC at Kino Sports Complex North Stadium.
A win tonight and a victory in the July 12 match against the visiting Real Colorado Foxes would likely give FC Tucson the best record in the conference, if not the entire 64-team league.
FC Tucson will have to go on the road for the first round of the playoffs — a play-in game against a Southwest Division team in Las Vegas on July 19. But a win in Sin City could have FC Tucson enjoying home cooking for the rest of its playoff run.
“The team with the best record has first right of refusal” to host the later rounds of the playoffs, said FC Tucson coach Rick Schantz. “We have to win these next two games to guarantee it. We’ve talked about it as a team, and now it becomes something to play for. Home-field advantage in the conference playoffs would be huge.”
FC Tucson chief business officer Chris Keeney says he’ll be doing the paperwork for the hosting bids over the weekend.
But before that, there are tonight’s fireworks. The league’s best offense will try to light up the net by adding to its season total of 32 goals, and then the real pyrotechnics will begin about 30 minutes after the final whistle.
“We are really working hard to put on the best FC Tucson show to date,” Keeney said. “With the fireworks, we’re proud to pick up a tradition that the Tucson Padres held. Now we want to celebrate our (country’s) independence with the world’s greatest sport and the USL PDL’s best team.”
The club is expecting to set a record for the largest home crowd for a USL PDL match.
“I really hope we can sell out the place — that would be 2,500-plus,” Keeney said. “We want to make it a big summer block party.”
Albuquerque, a franchise in its first season, will be trying to spoil the block party a little bit and take home a new trophy, called “The Golden Rattler,” that goes to the best team in the three-match series this season. FC Tucson has the upper hand with a 1-1 draw and a 3-0 victory in the two matches in Albuquerque earlier this season.
“Other than the home-field advantage for the playoffs that we’re trying to get, I’ve told the boys that we’re really fortunate to be playing on the Fourth of July, to have fireworks after the game,” Schantz said. “And at same time having the World Cup going on and what the U.S. has done. I told them they owe it to U.S. soccer to put on a good performance.”
- Teams from the Menlo Soccer League and the Tucson Metro Soccer League will play in the Chapman Tucson Champions League final before tonight’s FC Tucson match. Kickoff is set for 5:15 p.m. The winner will face FC Tucson on Tuesday.