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FC Tucson looks to expanded Desert Cup

Plans include two weeks of events, four teams

With his team having no home game this week, FC Tucson managing partner Greg Foster has been making the rounds to promote an expanded Desert Cup.

The Desert Cup this spring was a weekend tournament featuring two Major League Soccer teams, Sporting Kansas City and New York Red Bulls, as well as FC Tucson and the Arizona Sahuaros. Foster's plan is to invite between four and six MLS teams for two weeks in a situation that would resemble Major League Baseball spring training culminating in a weekend event much like what fans saw in February.

One team will likely be Sporting Kansas City, who played at Hi Corbett in February.

"We don't have a letter of intent yet, but we are working on it," said Foster.

Foster is being coy about the other teams being talked to, but Chris Keeney, a consultant hired by FC Tucson to work on the project, thinks any MLS team would make a good fit.

"We think local fans will look forward to Desert Cup no matter who the teams are," Keeney said.

Teams looking for fields and things to do

So, if Desert Cup organizers feel that most of the MLS teams would be a good fit for Tucson, do MLS teams feel Tucson is a good fit for them?

Keeny says that the teams he has talked to have been "intrigued."

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Keeney, who has done work for a number of MLS teams as well as Women's Professional Soccer, said there are five criteria that teams will look at when deciding where they will spend their preseason.

One is the fields themselves. Not only are there enough of them available, but, Keeney says, "are they in pristine condition?"

Next is facilities, are there adequate training facilities, locker rooms, and all those things that professional atheletes demand?

The level of competition is also important. An MLS team playing a local youth club may be fun for someone to watch, but there is no coach that would see this as preparation for the MLS season. This wouldn't mean that a tournament would exclude FC Tucson or other local squads. Our local teams provided competition this year; the Arizona Sahuaros team that played New York in February even featured a former Red Bulls player.

Cost is a factor, probably the most obvious.

Last on Keeney's list is city amenities. Will the teams have things to do during their down time? Foster noted that University of Arizona basketball may be a draw for the teams.

Every team has a 'story to tell'

I tried to draw out the names of these other teams from Keeney and Foster, but their lips were sealed. I asked Foster point blank about my favorite team, the New England Revolution.

"Actually, I really like Benny Feilhaber," Foster said.

Feilhaber is a U.S. National team player who started playing for New England this season. Foster, pro that he is, caromed this into a wider point about how any MLS team can be a draw, especially with as much lead time as they have for promotion for next year's event.

Keeney made the point more succinctly:

"You can go to every MLS team and there is a story to tell."

FC Tucson playing up north this weekend

FC Tucson is traveling up to Prescott this weekend for a pair of games with Yavapai FC and the Arizona Sahuaros.

When the team returns on July 8 for its final scheduled home game, fans may see a slightly different formation.

After last week's game against Arizona Select, the team traveled to Casa Grande to play against the Real Salt Lake Youth Academy. The team was worn out from a week of intensive practice, forcing Schantz to play a few people out of position.

Schantz admits that the team is a bit unbalanced, "we're a team full of midfielders." One of those midfielders, Charles Blaze, was played at right back. Schantz liked the results.

"We'll be playing him there from now on."

The game on the July 8 will be at Cienega High School, 12775 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way.

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