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Updated Oct 11, 2012, 5:01 pm Originally posted Oct 11, 2012, 12:12 pm
The New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders will take part in the 2013 Desert Diamond Cup, host team FC Tucson announced Thursday.
The third annual preseason Major League Soccer tournament will be held Feb. 13-23 at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. The cup final will be broadcast by NBC Sports Network.
"FC Tucson is quite pleased to continue building upon the success of last year's tournament by welcoming back three of the four 2012 participants and introducing the community to the Seattle Sounders," said team managing member Greg Foster.
"After talking extensively with MLS, Tucson has become the 'Western Hub of MLS Pre-Season' and we look forward to celebrating the world's game with our friends and family all around the region, including Northern Mexico," Foster said Thursday in a news release.
"We also expect to see a sizable influx of fans from each team's city as we turn Tucson into a soccer mecca for the entire month of February," he said.
The 2013 FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup will take place over four days: Wednesday, Feb. 13; Saturday, Feb. 17; Wednesday, Feb. 20 and Saturday, Feb. 23. The teams will play a round-robin format through the first three dates. The tournament final and third-place game will be played on Feb. 23.
Coming out of the cold
The four teams are from “cold weather” cities. That is no accident.
“It makes sense for them to spend an extended period of time in Tucson,” said general manager Jonathan Pearlman.
The new “cold weather” team is the Seattle Sounders FC, a fact that makes local attorney and former Seattle resident Ian Wilson happy.
“I’m personally excited,” said Wilson wearing a Seattle jersey sporting the name and number of defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. “I figured it was a team we could poach. As good as the facilities were in Casa Grande, it’s still Casa Grande.”
Seattle is renowned for its rabid fan base, and Wilson made the trip up I-10 to see his team last year. Wilson thinks that Seattle fans, who set an MLS record with a crowd of 66,452 earlier this month, will make the journey to Tucson.
“There were a few hundred people there for the Sounders-Whitecaps match,” Wilson said of a match in Casa Grande last year. “The fan base is there, maybe it won’t do better than LA. But it will be significant.”
“Maybe Drew Carey will come,” Wilson said, referring to the comedian who owns part of the team and regards himself as the team’s biggest fan.
Many of these teams have Arizona connections. Among the strongest is Real Salt Lake. FC Tucson’s Pearlman once worked for the team’s youth academy, based in Arizona, and he said that the team regards Arizona as its “backyard.”
Real Salt Lake’s Nat Borchers is Tucson born, and many RSL academy players have been involved in Tucson Soccer Academy and played for FC Tucson.
The tournament will mark a homecoming for Luis Robles. The New York Red Bulls goalkeeper has started getting some time with the full team. He told the Sentinel in September that he would welcome a chance to play in front of hometown fans.
"It would be unbelievable," Robles said told the Sentinel then. "Going back to my home base..playing in front of friends that wouldn't be able to come to games in New York...it would be a dream come true."
Among other Arizonans that could make the trip out here would be Seattle midfielder Brad Evans, who referred to Tucson as a soccer “hot spot” in an interview last year.
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FC Tucson also announced a broadcast partner for the tournament: NBC Sports Network. The network recently signed a deal to broadcast MLS matches and reaches 80 million homes.
"FC Tucson looks forward to working with a world-class organization like NBC Sports to air the final of the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup," said FC Tucson chief business officer Chris Keeney.
"We are excited that our tournament and the region will be on display on NBC Sports Network ... this is another big step in defining Tucson as one of the great soccer towns in the United States and a terrific destination for fans of the game worldwide," Kenney said.