Former Chelsea Legend Helps MLS Expand in Phoenix

By Parth Parikh,
Sports Business Writer

When it comes to American sports, there are many leagues and tournaments that people follow. Baseball, basketball, football and hockey are all well-known here, but there is another sport that is making its way into our hearts and homes. The sport of soccer has emerged as one of the most exciting and relatively new sports that has grabbed and captured our attention.

The leading soccer league in America, Major League Soccer, has begun its 22nd season and with 22 teams in operation, there is no doubt the MLS is looking to expand to new locations. Many of the popular cities have teams, such as New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy, and Toronto FC in Canada. As of now, there is one team, Los Angeles FC,that will make its debut in 2018, with Miami currently in the process of establishing their team.

As the MLS expands in terms of popularity and growth, many cities and towns are willing to bring in an MLS team and cater to the soccer fans in their area. Detroit, Cincinnati, Charlotte and St. Louis are some cities that have either expressed interest in having an MLS team or have a group of investors ready to start a franchise.

The most interesting city that has shown desire to house a soccer team is Phoenix, Arizona. Businessman Berke Bakay has long been a supporter of bringing in an MLS team to Arizona and the team he wants to bring in, the Phoenix Rising FC of the Division II professional league USL, is already a hot topic, with fans clamoring for the MLS to establish them as a new franchise.

But on April 10, the fans of Phoenix Rising FC were given a new reason to celebrate, as former international star and Chelsea FC legend Didier Drogba announced he would sign with the team for two years, as well as become part-owner of the team, hence making Drogba the first player-owner in world soccer history.

The 39 year-old Drogba played in the MLS last year with the Montreal Impact, where he scored 21 goals in 33 games, and although he was receiving offers from other international clubs like Corinthians in Brazil, he decided to give his last few years to the USL team and then become part-owner of a new MLS team, ready to represent the southwest region of the United States. Didier will join the likes of Diplo, Pete Wentz and Brandon McCarthy as the ownership group and soon, the international superstar will be the co-owner of what might be MLS’s newest and hottest team.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 print edition.

Contact Parth at

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