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Major League Soccer

Tucson bidding for another sort of major league spring training

Could major league spring training return to Tucson?

Before you get your hopes up about seeing the White Sox, Diamondbacks or even the Indians suit up in Tucson, it could be a very different kind of spring training. Think Red Bulls, Rapids and Sporting Kansas City.

Tuesday, the City Council will discuss a proposal to authorize FC Tucson, a new minor league soccer team, to enter into discussions with Major League Soccer to house spring training here, much in the same way baseball teams have done in the past.

March's Desert Cup, which pitted MLS teams against Arizona pro teams, was "remarkable" and shows that Tucson could be a successful host, said Chris Keeney, of A3 Sports Consulting.

"Tucson provides good weather, good restaurants" and provided a good venue with Hi Corbett Field, said the CEO of the Houston-based firm that works with sports leagues, teams and sports event planners. Keeney has submitted a proposal to FC Tucson to work on MLS spring training here.

In a phone interview, Keeney noted that MLS spring training is currently a "hodgepodge." Earlier attempts to formalize spring training fizzled, and it now consists of teams playing exhibitions in various cities and tournaments in Atlanta and Charlotte.

The tournament in Charlotte, dubbed the Carolina Challenge Cup, has been held since 2004 in a stadium designed to hold 5,100. Keeney noted that Tucson's turnout, more than "10,000 in a short time with not a lot of promotion," is a sign of community support that will be considered by MLS.

Other cities in Arizona are vying to host teams. The New York Red Bulls trained in Casa Grande and took a bus to Tucson for the games in March. Surprise is also looking at hosting teams.

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Not every team will be interested in coming to Arizona. At a fan summit in March, management of the New England Revolution said that they would prefer to keep their spring training in their own time zone. Still, other Eastern teams have trained in Arizona. In addition to the Red Bulls, the Columbus Crew has taken up residency in the Phoenix area.

FC Tucson's Greg Foster will be giving a presentation at the council's study session at 1 p.m.

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Omer Wazir/TucsonSentinel.com

York Red Bulls' Rafa Márquez clears the ball against Sporting Kansas City in a Desert Cup match in March.