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Phoenix on Consideration List for MLS Expansion Team

By Phoenix Rising FC Communications, 01/26/17, 2:15PM MST


Phoenix Rising Football Club Submitting MLS Expansion Team Application Following Meeting with MLS Executives in New York City.

Leaders from Phoenix Rising FC visited MLS executives in New York City on Friday January 20, 2017. (Pictured from left to right are: Brett Johnson, Frank Yallop, Berke Bakay, Mark Detmer, David Rappaport, and Tim Riester.)

(PHOENIX, AZ) – Phoenix Rising FC will be submitting an application for a Major League Soccer (MLS) Expansion Team franchise following a meeting between MLS executives and Phoenix Rising FC owners last Friday in New York City.

Phoenix joins a list of at least ten other cities competing for two MLS expansion team franchise spots that may be awarded in 2017.  The applications for those spots are due January 31, 2017.  The chosen expansion team franchises will begin playing in MLS during the 2020 season. This past December, the league acknowledged that ownership groups from 10 markets have publicly expressed interest in securing an MLS expansion team, including: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.  

Phoenix was not initially included in the list of possible MLS expansion team markets, however the rapid momentum generated behind Phoenix Rising FC and its new ownership group attracted the attention of MLS.   

MLS has considered Phoenix to be an attractive soccer market since its beginnings.  In fact, MLS executives 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.

Soccer-specific stadiums are an important component of MLS’ fan engagement strategy because its 22 existing teams routinely play before live audiences of 20,000 to 25,000 fans.

“Being invited to submit an MLS expansion team application is an honor,” said Berke Bakay, Governor of Phoenix Rising FC.  “It has always been our intention to bring Division 1 professional soccer to Arizona.  But, we will 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.”

Bakay led a group of investors comprised of experienced CEOs, private equity financiers, successful entrepreneurs, real estate experts, surgeons and global leaders in the entertainment industry that purchased the Arizona United Soccer Club in August of 2016.  The group quickly re-branded the team as Phoenix Rising FC, negotiated a long-term land lease at the northwest corner of the 101 and 202 freeway in south Scottsdale, began construction of a new, soccer-specific stadium and training facility, and empowered its Head Coach and President of Soccer Operations, two-time 'MLS Coach of the Year,' Frank Yallop, to invest in a roster of professional soccer players from around the world.

Phoenix Rising FC will play its 2017 season in the United Soccer League (USL), which was recently awarded Division 2 status by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

About Phoenix Rising FC

Phoenix Rising FC is Arizona's only professional soccer franchise. Established in 2013, the club enters its fourth year in the United Soccer League, which has been awarded Division 2 status by the U.S. Soccer Federation. Beginning in March of 2017, Phoenix Rising FC will be playing in its new, soccer-specific stadium located at the northwest corner of the 101 and 202 freeways in south Scottsdale.  For more information on the club, visit the team's website at You can also follow the team on Facebook (PHXRisingFC), Twitter (@PHXRisingFC), Instagram (@PHXRisingFC), Snapchat (PHXRisingFC) and YouTube (PhoenixRisingFootballClub). For season tickets call (623) 594-9606 or visit

About Major League Soccer (MLS)

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About United Soccer League

The United Soccer League is the fastest growing professional soccer league in the world with teams in 19 states and three Canadian provinces. Since 2014, the USL has doubled in size and established a sizeable North American footprint with strong ownership, experienced executives and regional rivalries.

In 2016, the USL experienced record growth with a total season attendance of almost 1.5 million, a 33 percent increase from 2015. The average attendance for the league’s top-10 drawing teams was 6,724, a 25 percent increase year-over-year.

Creating an engaging environment for passionate fans, the USL aims to establish all clubs as owners or primary tenants of 8,000-10,000 seat soccer-specific stadiums by 2020. Teams have invested more than $100 million into stadium infrastructure in the last year to enhance the experience for the USL’s passionate fans, 900-plus players and nearly 100 coaches in building a highly sophisticated league.

Expanding its broadcast reach with ESPN and SiriusXM partnerships, USL “Games of the Week” were available this year on ESPN3 to 99 million households. The USL aired more than 500 games last season through its Match Center. Recently, the USL finalized a $10 million investment and partnership with VISTA Worldlink to create USL Productions, which will create more than 1,000 hours of live match coverage for 2017. Additionally, statistical analysis will be powered by Opta – the world’s leading provider of live, detailed sports data – who will manage and deliver in-depth details for all USL games.

Based in Tampa, Fla., the USL supports its teams with operational excellence through 50-plus employees and 16 departments including Analytics, Competition, Creative, Digital, League Operations, Marketing, Merchandise/Licensing, Team Services, USL Productions and more.

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