TUCSON — For decades, Major League Baseball teams have escaped to the Arizona desert for Spring Training and for the past six years, Major League Soccer has also warmed up to the desert.
When Tucson lost their lost two Spring Training teams after the 2010 season, the City of Tucson knew that it needed to lure pro sports teams to the Old Pueblo during the late winter and early spring—enter FC Tucson and Major League Soccer. The once-home of the Arizona Diamondbacks is now home to Jon Pearlman and FC Tucson.
Completed in 2013, the North Stadium at the Kino Sports Complex comfortably sits 1,800 fans with two loges, a press box and an overhang that blocks out the blistering sun and the occasional rain storm.
Over the years, the Desert Diamond Cup has become the premiere preseason event for Major League Soccer with six teams playing playing in a double-elimination format on February 18 and 25.
In addition to the Cup, there will be three other matches including four additional MLS teams.
The action gets underway on February 27 at 6:30 pm at Kino North Stadium when the Portland Timbers face off against the New York Red Bulls.
The opening ceremonies will honor several people that have made soccer in Tucson not only a possibility but the success that it is today.
Tucson Legends of Soccer
A total of 18 community leaders, six coaches, nine current and former players and five referees will be recognized for their efforts in helping make Tucson and southern Arizona a thriving soccer community. Three members of the local sports media will be honored including Dave Ord and Greg Hansen from the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Sentinel’s Ted Preselski.
Former FC Tucson players now playing in the bigs will also be honored including New York Red Bulls’ Luis Robles, Real Salt Lake’s Justin Glad and Ricardo Velazco. It will be a triumphant homecoming for Velazco who played at Sunnyside High School and Tucson Soccer Academy before spending three seasons with the men in black.
The top-ranked team at he end of the regular season in 2016, the New York Red Bulls will take the pitch against the Portland Timbers. The Timbers won their first MLS Cup in 2015 and always represent well in Tucson.
The following Friday night, February 4 will see a preview of the Cascadia Cup. In a rematch of the largest crowd ever at Kino North Stadium last year, rivals Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers will clash with more than just pride on the line.
This marquee matchup pits the top two teams of the past two years with the Timbers winning the MLS Cup in 2015 and the Sounders as the defending MLS Cup champion.
This game was intense last year and both teams will be looking to admonish the other and claim dominance in the desert.
Tickets for both games are $15.50 for children, $22.00 for adults of get a four-pack for $70.50.
Desert Diamond Cup
If you are looking for more bang for your buck ,the Desert Diamond Cup offers up three games for the price of one on February 18 and 25.
Beginning at 1:00 pm at Kino North Stadium, the New England Revolution take on Tim Howard and the Colorado Rapids. Howard, if you don’t recall, was the goalie for the U.S. Men’s team in the 2010 and 2014 World Cup.
The New York Red Bulls take on 2013 MLS Cup champion, Sporting Kansas City at 3:30 pm with New York City Football Club and the Houston Dynamo providing the nightcap at 6:00 pm.
The following Saturday will offer up three more games with the No. 5 and No. 6 teams playing at 1:00 pm, No. 3 vs. No.4 at 3:30 pm and the top two seeds playing at 6:00 pm.
“This event is important to the community because it has brought groups together that are vital for the success of Tucson as a city,” FC Tucson General Manager Jon Pearlman said. “Through private and public partnership, great sponsors, the work of Pima County, the City of Tucson, Visit Tucson, and the Town of Oro Valley, FC Tucson is proud to again be the MLS Western Hub of Preseason and bring the beautiful game to Southern Arizona.”