The Arizona United Soccer Club, Arizona’s only professional soccer team, will start its second season on April 25 in the United Soccer League. Kyle Eng, the owner of the club, will tell us more.
Ted Simons: The Arizona United soccer club will play its home opener this Saturday in the United Soccer League. Kyle Eng is the owner of the club and he's here to tell us more about pro soccer in Arizona. First of all, that's quite the outfit you got there.
Kyle Eng: Thank you, soccer tradition, got the scarf going.
Ted Simons: What is the United soccer league?
Kyle Eng: It's the league right below the MLS, and MLS is the top level of soccer in the United States. You remember when we did not have a Major League Baseball team in town, we didn't have an NFL team in town. Our goal is now to get not only from USL, but actually the top level in Major League Soccer.
Ted Simons: You've got the team and the team is going to play, but the goal is to get that MLS franchise.
Kyle Eng: The goal is to get to the top level of soccer in America. Phoenix is the largest city in America without an MLS franchise.
Ted Simons: Why is that?
Kyle Eng: I think a few things. We've got to show support for the game of soccer. This is a city with four pro sports teams. It's incumbent on us to earn the fan and community support and have people rally around it. There are 32,000 kids that play soccer in Arizona. It's the fastest growing kids support in Arizona. We will hopefully get that to the next level.
Ted Simons: The United Soccer League, when do you start and end the season?
Kyle Eng: We play at Scottsdale stadium where the Giants play. And because of that we've had to play the first four games on the road. They have lowered the mound and filled in the dirt. It's a great soccer stadium, we start this Saturday. We've already played four games, we're 3-1. We're in second place in the Western Conference, there's 24 teams. This Saturday at 7:30 we play the Portland Timbers Two. Portland Timbers is a successful franchise in the MLS, they have a team in our league and so we're playing them on Saturday.
Ted Simons: If the season is starting right now, that suggests the season goes through the summer, how are you going to get soccer fans out to watch soccer in the middle of the summer?
Kyle Eng: We're going make it fun. We play the game at 7:30. It's a two-hour game. The great thing about soccer, the clock starts and it does not stop. So we go 45 minutes, have a little halftime and then 45 minutes to 90 minutes. So it's a two hour experience, we're going to make it fun; we're going to make it relevant. People are going to have a good time at a soccer match.
Ted Simons: If enough people have a good time, is there any kind of timetable for getting a franchise here?
Kyle Eng: We have to prove over the next two or three years that we can have the fan support, the corporate support, the community support to support an MLS franchise and we believe we can do it. We've already sold 5100 tickets for the first game. We had to open up more seats to support more and more ticket sales. We have greatest fans in the world. And they're the most passionate fans, soccer fans are the most passionate fans.
Ted Simons: As far as a committed ownership group, is anything bubbling out there?
Kyle Eng: Well, I'm committed. I'm a community guy, I own other businesses in town but we're committed to being the best professional sport team in Arizona. We want to give our fans the best experience. And by doing that we will continue to grow and get to that next level.
Ted Simons: When you get to that next level, where will an MLS team play?
Kyle Eng: We're going to find a soccer specific stadium. We've talked to many different municipalities, private ownership, that'll be a privately funded opportunity for us to have a professional soccer team and professional soccer stadium in town.
Ted Simons: Talked to the tribes about that, as well?
Kyle Eng: Absolutely, absolutely.
Ted Simons: Folks go out and watch, they enjoy it, you say maybe two years or something along those lines. When can we expect to see that MLS step.
Kyle Eng: Three or four years, this is our second season. Rome wasn't built in a day. Soccer certainly wasn't built in a day. But as we see continued community support, corporate support we'll get to that.
Ted Simons: For fans out there who don't know anything about soccer, they played it a little bit as a kid maybe a little bit. When you go to a soccer match, what do you look for.
Kyle Eng: You stand, you cheer, got chances going. You look for a score.
Ted Simons: But is there a flow, sometimes they don't know what they are watching out there. What advice would you give them?
Kyle Eng: Come on out and watch a game for $12. We have a great fan experience, people are cheering and yelling and screaming. We've got scarves going, all sorts of things.
Ted Simons: Very good, congratulations on this league and good luck on that next one and we'll be watching. Friday on Arizona Horizon it's the "Journalists' Roundtable," we'll discuss the testimony in this week's contempt of court hearing against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. And the governor gives the go-ahead for married gay couples to adopt and foster children. That's Friday on the "Journalists' Roundtable." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.
Kyle Eng:Owner, Arizona United Soccer Club;