2012 Desert Cup
MLS firms up plans for Desert Cup
Expanded format includes 4 teams, games at Kino Stadium
Major League Soccer Vice President Nelson Rodriguez joined local officials in announcing a schedule and location for the 2012 Desert Cup on Thursday.
Rodriguez's vision is for more than just a short pre-season tournament, but to make Tucson a "permanent home for Major League Soccer."
This year's Desert Cup was played on a single weekend and featured MLS's New York Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City plus two lower division squads: FC Tucson and Arizona Sahuaros. Next year's contest will feature four MLS teams and will be played at Kino Stadium on Tucson's southside.
FC Tucson officials are reluctant to announce what the participating teams will be, but have said that they have four that are very interested in participating. With Thursday's announcement of a venue, it is expected that FC Tucson will be able to announce the teams in the next few weeks.
Rodriguez talks community support
The audience for the announcement included politicians, business people, county officials and fans decked out in the jerseys of their favorite teams. Rodriguez was impressed by the level of support, but "not surprised."
"It was great to see the support from so many parts of the community. ... But we are not surprised. Everything we've seen from FC Tucson has been first-class and today was no different."
Rodriguez and several of the speakers noted how the community came together to support the effort to bring MLS to Tucson. One was Board of Supervisors Chairman Ramón Valadez, who admitted he was initially skeptical.
"Councilman Cunningham came to me a year ago, and I thought it was a fantasy. I am happy to be proven wrong," Valadez said.
Valadez said of the attendance at the last event, where over 10,000 people packed Hi Corbett Field, "it was a loud signal that this community supports soccer."
Build it and they will come
Rick Schantz, head coach for FC Tucson, spent his moments after the press conference talking to Kino complex officials about options for fields in the area.
He said the matches will be played in the stadium, but there are more facilities available for teams to train. The Diamondbacks club house and the areas around it can be converted for a soccer team.
"We're looking at bringing in bikes, weights and training equipment. We want to make it a one stop shop for an MLS team," Schantz said.
One thingthe schedule is missing is a match between FC Tucson and one of the MLS sides. Schantz said that he is making arrangements for FC Tucson to play against the reserve teams for the MLS clubs. Unfortunately for fans, those games will be closed to the public.
Schantz still sees it as good chance bring more quality players to FC Tucson.
"We can call up these players and agents and say, if you haven't been drafted and you're looking for an opportunity to play in front of some MLS coaches, here it is," he said.
MLS fans will even admit that the league hasn't had the impact on culture the way other sports do. Many people who don't follow baseball or basketball will claim to have a team. When it comes to soccer, only confirmed fans have an allegiance.
County Board of Supervisor Richard Elías came to the sport recently after being involved in the Desert Cup last year and meeting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes.
"I like seeing Kansas City do well, and they were fun to watch this season.