Opinion: ASU should partner with Phoenix Rising for MLS bid

Sun Devil Stadium is the perfect fit for Phoenix Rising

As the drums lay the beat to Phoenix Rising’s astonishing 20th consecutive victory in all competitions, fans continue to bask in the success of the franchise. Established in 2016, not everyone saw success coming this quickly. With ever-growing fan support and a team that has dominated the United Soccer League for a full season and a half, it’s time to think major. 

In April, Major League Soccer announced that it planned to expand to 30 teams, which is the norm for every major professional league in the United States. With the current MLS tally at 24, now is the perfect time for ASU and Phoenix Rising to partner by using Sun Devil Stadium as the home for the MLS version of Phoenix Rising. 

Phoenix is one of 10 cities applying for a Major League Soccer expansion team, a spokesperson for Phoenix Rising FC confirmed.

In 2020, Miami and Nashville will debut with a franchise, the same for Austin in 2021. This leaves three franchise slots open. MLS has invited Sacramento and St. Louis to make a formal bid, making them favorites for two of the three slots. Phoenix should be next.

"They have proven that they (Phoenix Rising) can build a winning team, they have proven that they can draw fans," said Jack Bolla Morris, a sophomore studying public service and public policy and a Phoenix Rising fan. "I think they have just as much of a compelling case, if not more compelling, as other teams have for the last MLS spot.”

The two potential biggest hurdles in the way of Phoenix Rising are a stadium and money. 

The expansion fee set for Sacramento and St. Louis is $200 million, an amount that will only increase for franchise No. 30. Phoenix also plays at a stadium with a capacity of 6,200, nowhere near enough room for a professional franchise.

The solution is clear: Phoenix Rising and ASU should partner to bring MLS to the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the United States.

Sun Devil Stadium seats 55,000 strong, only two-thirds the amount of the MLS attendance record of 72,548 set by Atlanta United earlier this season, making Sun Devil Stadium the perfect size for an expansion franchise.

Sun Devil Stadium has been the site for two other professional franchises, one already in 2019. The Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football played their inaugural, and only, season in Tempe. Revenue from the shortened season helped reduce ASU's "indirect institutional support of athletics." 

Imagine what an MLS team can do for ASU athletics if a short-lived football team can help. 

The most important part of this partnership between ASU and Phoenix Rising is sustainability. The biggest flaw with the ASU and Hotshots marriage was the uncertainty of the product, as the AAF ceased operations midway through the season. MLS has no uncertainty in that department as MLS continues to expand. 

“Once you get students going to those games, they’re going to understand that its a lot of fun and they’re going to want to stick with (Phoenix Rising),” Bolla Morris said. 

Additionally, what will be beneficial to the community in moving to Sun Devil Stadium is that a new stadium would not need to be built. No tax dollars would be diverted and no referendum process would need to be voted on, which is part of why the Hotshots chose Sun Devil Stadium. 

Phoenix Rising will boost ASU engagement and will help the economy prosper even more. There is no reason why the fifth-largest metropolitan area shouldn’t have a fifth major sport, especially with its appetite for soccer

So, Athletics Director Ray Anderson and President Michael Crow, pick up the phone or even drive the three-mile distance to propose a plan to bring the most popular sport in the world to Sun Devil Stadium. 

Reach the columnist at ancoil@asu.edu or follow @anc2018 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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