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Sun Cup: Phoenix Rising, FC Tucson partner for new MLS preseason

11 MLS teams to make an appearance this year

Phoenix Rising FC and FC Tucson will the hold the Sun Cup, the seventh consecutive MLS preseason event hosted in Tucson. Phoenix and 11 MLS clubs will play here and in Phoenix in February.

The Major League Soccer teams taking part will be Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, New England Revolution, Portland Timbers, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City.

Mobile Mini is the title sponsor of the tournament.

New England has been a mainstay of the preceding Desert Diamond Cup and will make their seventh preseason appearance in Tucson — their first with new head coach Brad Friedel. The Rapids, Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City will be making their fifth appearances in a Tucson preseason. The Dynamo, Real Salt Lake, Galaxy and Earthquakes are all previous visitors to Tucson, with the Galaxy finally returning after a win in the 2012 Desert Diamond Cup.

The Phoenix team purchased the semi-pro Tucson side earlier this year.

The presence of both the Timbers and Sounders means that Tucson has a good chance of again getting a feel for one of MLS’s greatest rivalries.

FC Dallas will be making their Arizona preseason debut.

“Tucson has done an incredible job setting a gold standard for MLS preseason and we’re excited to enhance that and make it bigger than ever,” said Phoenix Rising FC club governor Berke Bakay. “With the help of Mobile Mini we’re bringing even more clubs to Tucson for MLS preseason.”

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“Soccer in Arizona benefits when FC Tucson and Phoenix Rising FC co-hosts projects like this,” said FC Tucson general manager Jon Pearlman. “The fact that this event is expanding is a testament to the Tucson soccer community’s role in growing MLS preseason.”

“We’ve shown consistency,” he added. “We have these teams coming to us again and again.”

Phoenix Rising FC will host three matches at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex against MLS clubs on February 10 (opponent TBA, 3 p.m.), February 14 against Colorado Rapids (6 p.m.), and February 17 against Sporting Kansas City (3 p.m.). All gated matches in Tucson will be played on February 3, 17 and 24. Each day will feature multiple MLS matchups with one ticket getting you access to all the matches played that day. The match-ups and times of all Mobile Mini Sun Cup matches, gated and non-gated, will be announced later.

Although Phoenix Rising officials are mum about the full schedule, team spokesman H. José Bosch says that those three matches will be the only gated matches in the Phoenix area.

“Almost all matches are going to be in Tucson,” he said.

Pearlman is also promising a new format and schedule that will give more opportunities for fans.

“The schedule is made to enable more people to see the games,” he said. “The event will be bigger, better and more accessible.”

Neither Bosch nor Pearlman could give details on the status of the previous title sponsor for the event, the Desert Diamond Casino, which has been displaced in that role by Phoenix-based Mobile Mini. Desert Diamond had hosted events around the tournament, including a welcome dinner for the teams.

Ted Prezelski writes about all things soccer, fútbol and piłka nożna for TucsonSentinel.com and at the blog How Flair is Punished (mindingthe.net).

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