For more than 60 years, over half a century and throughout the terms of ten different American Presidencies, Tucson has been a typical destination for off season and spring training baseball. Big league teams would come to Tucson during the winter months to train and and play pre-season games to prepare for the longest season of any professional American sport. The Colorado Rockies, The Arizona Diamondbacks and The Chicago White Sox all used to come to Tucson for spring training. But to quote the famous Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changin’”. Additionally this city has lost the Tucson Sidewinders (1998-2008) who were a triple A farm team, or affiliate, of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The The Tucson Toros were another Triple-A team who were affiliated with numerous Major League Baseball teams over the years. However, The Toros, who are currently on hiatus, have become an independent team in the Golden Baseball League, which has since merged with the North American Baseball League. Lastly, there is The Tucson Padres, who are a minor league triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The Tucson Padres play in the Pacific Coast League. Their future in this city is uncertain.
All good things must come to an end as they say. And “Every end can be seen as a new beginning” and ”when one door closes, another door opens” as they say (who are “they” anyway). Now that “spring training in Tucson is officially dead” , there are new opportunities for others to move in and fill that void. That is precisely the ambition and attitude of the front office of a certain semi professional team based out of Tucson. Now, just off the top of your head, try to think of a sport franchise that could potentially fill this void and help regain the millions of dollars lost by the departure of those Major League Baseball teams. Perhaps an NBDL basketball team? Or better yet, since it is America’s most popular sport, perhaps a semi pro football team? Well no, it’s none of those. It’s a semi pro soccer team, yea that’s right, I said soccer.
In 2010, just as baseball was making its final farewell from Tucson for good, a small semi pro soccer team was being founded: FC Tucson. A group of individuals in their front office had big plans to turn Tucson into a soccer town. Lots of professionals and businessmen in Tucson have big plans and big ideas for our city but rarely do they come to fruition as planned. However, the front office heads at FC Tucson didn’t just have big ideas, they had a vision and a well thought out strategic plan to back that idea up. The ultimate vision is to make Tucson into a central hub, or location of activity, for MLS teams to come and train during their long off season. They are like the little engine that could in a sense, just a small local semi pro team going across the country and meeting with front office representatives from the MLS and various professional soccer teams, inviting them to come train in Tucson and play in The 2012 FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup. People like co owners and partners Chris Keeney and Greg Foster (among many others) have been making giant strides toward achieving this goal (no pun intended). They have done and will continue to do various promotional events to draw attention to their tournament, the teams involved and Major League Soccer in general. The most notable of these events so far was a press conference held in Hermosillo, the capital city of Sonora, Mexico. They even had MLS Executive Vice President Nelson Rodriguez there to show the support MLS has for their cause, which is to bring in as many fans as possible from across the Mexican-American border. They targeted cities like Nogales, Hermosillo and other Northern Mexican cities. They hope that the chance to see soccer stars like Rafael Márquez, who plays for the New York Red Bulls and is a Captain for the men’s Mexican National team will inspire soccer fans from these cities to cross the border into Tucson and stay for the tournament.