It was standing room only in the Navajo Room at Mesa Community College (MCC) Aug. 5 as soccer fans gathered for the official announcement of a new professional East Valley team.
FC Arizona, the Valley of the Sun’s newest professional soccer team, is slated to kick off its inaugural season at the John D. Riggs Stadium on the MCC campus in March 2017.
“We are committed to developing a world-class, forward-thinking sports organization that residents can be proud of,” FC Arizona owner and Chandler resident Scott Taylor said. “I fell in love with soccer while I was in Scotland – the culture of it – and I thought, ‘How can we bring this to the East Valley?’
“I want to create an experience where everyone will want to come to games,” he continued. “So we’ll focus on the cultural aspect of soccer, like the chanting.”
Taylor said he’s spent the last year and a half putting the business plan together and is committed to creating an experience that hasn’t been presented to the Valley before with other teams.
Aidan Davison has been named head coach of FC Arizona and East Valley native and McClintock High School alum Andrew Weber was announced as the first player signed as goal keeper.
“It boils down to hard work and determination, and I think it’s going to be a huge success,” Davison said, adding that the team will have an open tryout before invitation-only tryouts because the East Valley has talent “and we just have to find them.”
Weber agreed. “I think if we listen to you all, we’ll be OK. We are passionate about creating something for everyone in the long haul.”
They can’t announce which league they will be a part of until next month, but Taylor did confirm it will not by the USL (United Soccer League).
“There are four leagues in this country that are considered to be professional. We will be competing in one of them,” Taylor explained. “The league will be making the official announcement in September. Regardless of the league, the quality of play will be some of the best in the U.S. Until then, we are looking very forward to meeting and connecting with every soccer fan in the Valley on a personal level. We are committed to building a team that residents will be proud to call their own.”
Mesa Mayor John Giles said FC stands for “Freaking Cool.”
“It’s so cool to have soccer in Mesa because it’s huge here, our Parks and Recreation Department can’t keep up with the demand. We can’t seem to build soccer fields in Mesa fast enough so we already know there is a huge appetite for soccer here. I think the stadium will be full and the franchise will be very successful.”
East Valley Partnership President and CEO John Lewis agreed, calling Arizona “a very strong soccer state.”
Sally Harrison, president and CEO of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, said Taylor has worked hard to get the team to Mesa and she’s happy to have it within the city’s limits.
Then there are those true fans like Nick Hollingsworth, 12, of Chandler, and his father, Jimmy, who are excited to have a professional soccer team in the East Valley.
“I think it’s so cool that they signed Andrew Weber as goal keeper and I hope they are in the MLS (Major League Soccer),” Nick said.
“We’re just excited either way,” Jimmy added. “If there is a team here, we’ll be there watching.”
FC Arizona’s inaugural season will kick off in March 2017 with Saturday evening games. FC Arizona’s goal is to make attending matches affordable and fun. Season tickets to all 10 home games are on sale now for $90. All youth season ticket holders (ages 5-18) will also receive admission to a youth camp of their choice and an FC Arizona shirt.
“Our front office and coaching staff appointments are top class,” Taylor said. “Our organization will be busy over the next few months as we look for ways to connect with the community in a meaningful way to create a lasting support culture for pro soccer here.”
The John D. Riggs Stadium at MCC is located at 1833 W. Southern Ave., where parking for games will be free.
For more information on the team and future soccer camps, visit fcarizona.com.
– Kelly Mixer is managing editor of MyNewsMesa.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.