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Posted Sep 28, 2011, 8:39 am
Major League Soccer Vice President Nelson Rodriguez will be making another appearance in Tucson on Thursday.
Rodriguez is scheduled to appear at a press conference at Kino Stadium dubbed a "major sports announcement" by organizers. Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham, representatives from FC Tucson, the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau, Pima County Sports & Tourism Authority and Pima County District 5 are also expected to appear.
Next year's plans for the Desert Cup should be announced, including game dates.
Last year's tournament featured four teams playing games over a single weekend. Next year's events are expected to be played over two weeks and feature more MLS teams. The concept is for a pre-season in Tucson similar to Major League Baseball's spring training.
The preliminary plan touted by organizers has a field of teams expanded to six, with FC Tucson and the Arizona Sahuaros plus four MLS teams.
Although organizers are careful not to release the names of the teams (that is expected next month), two of them will likely be Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls. Both teams played in last year's tournament.
Although they are being coy about who the teams might be, there are several that would be natural fits to Tucson. MLS has five teams in neighbors: Los Angeles Galaxy, Chivas USA, San Jose Earthquakes, Real Salt Lake and defending champion Colorado Rapids.
Some teams have already come to Arizona. The Columbus Crew has done pre-season training at Grand Canyon College.
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Both local organizers and MLS also are leaving open the possibility of even more teams making at least a pit stop in Tucson.
Rodriguez envisions a more formalized pre-season, with Tucson and Orlando, Florida as "hubs." Whether this would happen is dependent on the availability of facilities.
Given the location of the press conference, it doesn't take keen deductive skills to infer that next year's events will be centered at Kino.
There are several practice fields and club houses at the complex built for the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. With those teams no longer training in Tucson, the facilities could be repurposed for soccer.
Last year's tournament location, Hi Corbett Field, is likely out for any events given a deal signed between city officials and the University of Arizona's baseball team.
The press conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Thursday. Local soccer supporter groups are asking that members of the public come wearing MLS, US national team or FC Tucson gear.