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Major League Soccer Visits Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

(L-R) Solanna Group CEO David Fordon, Solanna Group President Claire Miller, Phoenix Rising FC Governor Berke Bakay, MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott, SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr., and Vice-President Martin Harvier.

If Major League Soccer (MLS) expands to Arizona, the professional soccer team competing on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is doing its best to be included in the expansion.

MLS is the highest level of soccer in the United States and Canada and intends to name two expansion cities, perhaps as early as this year. Phoenix Rising Football Club (PRFC), a United Soccer League member, hopes to be one of the clubs to make the leap to MLS starting in 2020.

On May 9, MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott visited the Valley and met with Phoenix Rising officials for a site visit and for PRFC to update MLS on its current bid.

Abbott, along with Phoenix Rising officials and leaders from the Solanna Group, met with SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr., and Vice-President Martin Harvier at Two Waters.

The piece of tribal land home to PRFC’s Soccer Complex was the main discussion topic. If MLS selects Arizona, PRFC would need to build a larger soccer complex than the current 6,200-seat arena. PRFC leaders say they will start building a privately financed, 20,000-plus-seat stadium on site within days of receiving MLS expansion approval.

“We were pleased and honored that the MLS contingent had the opportunity to meet with President Ray, Vice-President Harvier and Community Manager Bryan Meyers to learn just how distinctive of a place Salt River … is, providing a one-of-a-kind environment of support for an MLS franchise awarded to the greater Phoenix metropolitan area,” said Claire Miller, landowner family spokeswoman and Solanna Group president. “The commitment of the Salt River leadership to embrace the highest-quality development that benefits both the local and broader communities demonstrated to MLS the true and authentic partnership between Solanna, SRPMIC and PRFC to make the MLS dream a reality.”

Soccer star and Phoenix Rising player Didier Drogba speaks with the media. Drogba joined the team earlier this year as player and team co-owner. Major League Soccer Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott (center) addresses the media on May 9. Abbott talked about his Valley visit and what he learned from the Phoenix Rising Football Club. He said he left impressed.
Area mayors, Maricopa County officials and Arizona State University leaders also met with Abbott to speak about the social and economic benefits of a MLS expansion to Arizona. Sun Devil Stadium could potentially serve as an interim location for PRFC while the new stadium is being built.

“Phoenix is undoubtedly primed to be the next successful MLS market, and I’m confident we demonstrated during the MLS contingent’s visit that between PRFC, Solanna, SRPMIC and the region’s soccer-based communities, we are collectively prepared with the capacity and investment wherewithal to deliver the highest-caliber soccer-specific and climate-controlled stadium, a world-class soccer team, and a loyal fan base for a 2020 MLS season start,” said David Fordon, CEO and general manager of Solanna Group.

PRFC and Abbott held a news conference at the end of Abbott’s visit. Without giving away many details, Abbott said he was impressed but couldn’t give any timetable on when the expansion clubs will be announced.

PRFC is one of 12 expansion finalists. The Phoenix metro is the second-largest market in the country without a MLS club.

“We were particularly impressed with the progress Phoenix Rising has made in a short period of time, and the fan base they have developed,” Abbott said. “We look forward to continuing our discussions with Phoenix Rising as our expansion selection process continues.”

Phoenix Rising FC Home Game Schedule
June 10: Vancouver Whitecaps FC II
June 24: Real Monarchs Salt Lake City
July 15: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
July 29: San Antonio FC
August 26: Sacramento Republic FC
September 2: Seattle Sounders FC II
September 6: Orange County (California) SC
September 16: Real Monarchs SLC
October 4: Tulsa (Oklahoma) Roughnecks FC
October 7: Rio Grande (Texas) Valley FC
October 14: Portland Timbers II

For complete schedule and ticket information, visit www.phxrisingfc.com.
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