As if a shiny new stadium and a match against an MLS foe weren't enough Friday night, FC Tucson and Pima County handed soccer fans the future.
While supporters were still taking in the new 1,700-seat grandstand and surrounding facilities tonight, officials announced at halftime that Major League Soccer will be returning to train in Tucson this spring.
Ten MLS teams will visit the Old Pueblo over a one-month period beginning Feb. 1. The 15-match schedule will include a new Desert Diamond Cup format and another Northwest rivals clash between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC. FC Tucson will also be involved.
The third edition of the Desert Diamond Cup will be expanded from eight matches to 12 and will involve six teams — Chivas USA, the Chicago Fire, Real Salt Lake, the Colorado Rapids, the New England Revolution and FC Tucson. Each one of the four match days will have three games rather than the doubleheaders in years past.
“The first three (Desert Diamond Cup) events are going to be at the new stadium and the final will be moved over to the big Kino Stadium,” FC Tucson coach and co-managing partner Rick Schantz said.
The first three tripleheaders will be played Feb. 19, Feb. 22 and Feb. 26. The finals will be March 1.
The Desert Friendlies will also return. The Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City will join the Timbers and Seattle for three exhibition matches beginning Feb. 1 and wrapping up with a Portland-Seattle match at 6 p.m. on Feb. 8.
“There will be fewer gated friendlies, but they’re going to be on Saturday nights instead of those mid-day matches,” Schantz said.
Read more in Saturday's Arizona Daily Star.