Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports
FC Tucson was named a founding member of USL Division III on Tuesday, but Arizona’s second-largest city is no stranger to professional soccer, with Major League Soccer and United Soccer League clubs annually visiting the city for preseason training and competition.
Hosted by Phoenix Rising FC and FC Tucson, the Mobile Mini Sun Cup is a preseason tournament that has brought high-quality competition to Tucson since 2011. A total of 11 MLS teams are scheduled to take part in this year’s edition of the tournament, which began on Feb. 3 and will end on Feb. 24.
The Colorado Rapids, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City have competed in the tournament at least five times, and the consensus is that Tucson is a first-class city.
“We’ve spent part of our preseason program in Tucson in each of the last eight years, including this season, and have always been pleased with the experience,” New England Revolution General Manager Michael Burns told USLD3.com. “We’ve enjoyed working with FC Tucson and are impressed by how well they operate what is, in our opinion, one of the top MLS preseason tournaments each year.”
Recently acquired by Rising FC, FC Tucson will play its seventh season in the Premier Development League this summer. The team has been one of the premier pre-professional teams since its inception, winning four division titles (2014-17) and competing in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup four times (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017).
“First thing I would say is congratulations to FC Tucson for graduating to DIII,” Sporting KC Manager and Technical Director Peter Vermes told USLD3.com. “We’ve spent a lot of years there now in preseason and the organization has always been very professional in the way that they’ve handled all the teams that have come through there – whether MLS, USL or foreign teams – so I think they have a great foundation for the way they run their day-to-day operations. There’s no doubt, in the people I’ve worked with over the years there, that they have all the ingredients to be successful in DIII.”
As USL Division III continues to grow to a three-conference structure, emphasizing regional rivalries, FC Tucson will anchor the western expansion of the new league.
“Based on my experience with the organization,” Burns said, “I don’t doubt they will see great success.”