Making Phoenix A 'Soccer Town'

Published: Thursday, June 28, 2018 - 2:59pm
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Mark Brodie/KJZZ
Bobby Dulle, general manager of Phoenix Rising Football Club.

When the 2026 World Cup comes to the U.S., Canada and Mexico, Phoenix will not be one of the cities hosting a match.

The state's Sports and Tourism Authority says it, along with representatives from Phoenix and Glendale, decided to remove the region from consideration as a host city.

In a statement, the president and CEO of the Authority said, "FIFA was not able to provide specific details on major unknowns that could result in a major financial burden to our cities."

The statement goes on to say the decision should not be taken as a lack of interest in soccer.

That's good news for Bobby Dulle, general manager of Phoenix Rising Football Club. He joined The Show's Mark Brodie to talk about it.

MARK BRODIE: Bobby, let me ask you first off, what you think about the fact that the Valley essentially took itself out of the running to host a World Cup match when the tournament comes in North America in 2026.

BOBBY DULLE: Yeah. I mean, I was not personally involved, or no one from the club was personally involved in that RFP process. Of course, I've heard and read and been privy to some information, and unfortunately, I think there was a lot of uncertainties, you know, with regards to what would need to be provided, whether it was tax incentives or certain costs that need to be incurred by the, you know, the local city. Again, I'm not, you know, in tune directly with all of those details. However, you know, I think, you know, as any city they're making sure they're taking care of their tax payers and making sure that they're making right decisions, and I think if they're not equipped with enough information, you know, I think they erred on the side of caution. You know, at the end of the day, it's still a great thing. You know, you have surrounding cities within North America. I couldn't be more excited that the World Cup is coming to North America. As someone that played the sport, that has kids playing the sport, and someone that now works in the sport, my passion, obviously, is spilling over for the sport of soccer, and to think that in eight years we're going to have a World Cup that unifies, you know, North America, that brings people from all over the world, and the world sport is going to be on the biggest stage.

BRODIE: Phoenix Rising is obviously working on raising its profile. You're trying to get into MLS. Would having World Cup matches in this market have helped that effort, or the talk of having World Cup matches in this market help that effort at all, do you think?

DULLE: Of course it wouldn't hurt, right? But, you know, the talk right now, you know, we're getting a tremendous amount of exposure right now as an organization. This is year two. We're selling out every game, you know, we're getting more and more of our brand all over. Our partners, our corporate support is greatly increasing our exposure, you know, via media outlets is tremendous. So we're getting a tremendous amount of support right now, you know, and then we're also getting a tremendous amount of support just due to the fact the World Cup's happening this year, so when it's in North America, just by proxy, we're gonna get more and more, you know, exposure as being kind of the football experts, soccer experts here in the local market. So yeah, it would be great to have teams here, but there's certainly opportunities for exhibitions and we've seen how successful those are in market, and we're going to continue to work hard to put Phoenix Rising on the map, and any more soccer that's on television, that's being talked about, that's being played throughout the world is good for Phoenix Rising.

BRODIE: What is Phoenix Rising doing now to try to use ,as you referenced, the current World Cup to try to raise your profile, maybe get more fans involved, either attending the games or, you know, talking about the team around town, which presumably would help in terms of making Phoenix Rising an MLS club at some point?

DULLE: Yeah. We're doing watch parties. We have players doing appearances all over town. We have players that have national team experience as well on our roster, including the great Didier Drogba, who's currently over in Russia right now on behalf of BBC and serving as one of their in-studio hosts and commentators. So we certainly have some connections to the World Cup, and we're also the highest level of soccer here in Arizona and we put a great product.

BRODIE: Does it hurt your efforts that the U.S. is not in this World Cup, that the U.S. didn't qualify?

DULLE: I mean, again, it would be great from a rooting interest to have our home country represented, but I think in general, just because, you know, now it's not just sports talk that's talking about the World Cup in soccer, you have, you know, the general media talking about soccer, which is great. As a fan, I would have loved for the United States to be in there, but we're still getting to watch top-notch soccer. The best players that now, more and more people are familiar with the top players in the world. You look at why the sport is growing. It's the exposure on television. You look at the participation numbers at the youth level is increasing. You look at, you know, video games and, you know, young kids are, you know, getting familiar with the Messi's or the Ronaldo's of the world because of the video game, and it helps them, you know, just be more educated on the sport and know more players. Everywhere you look now, you're seeing young kids walking around in jerseys, and more so than not, they're now walking around in Phoenix Rising jerseys, which is pretty exciting for us as an organization.

BRODIE: Phoenix Rising is obviously younger than the other professional sports franchises in the Valley, and I'm wondering how far you've come and other organizations promoting soccer in terms of making the Phoenix metro area a soccer town, a quote unquote "soccer town."

DULLE: Yeah. I mean, we certainly have a gap to close with the other professional sports teams here in town. This is year two. But we've proved the market, right? We're selling out nearly every game. We have tremendous distribution right now with our merchandise. More and more people are wearing our jerseys and apparel with our logos on it. Our corporate support level is greatly increasing, and that's all due to the fact that soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Again, the United States is behind the rest of the world as it relates to it being the number one sport, but we're certainly closing that gap. So we are, you know, trying to learn from the other professional sports teams here in town. We're learning from the other, you know, other markets. We've got great relationships all over the world. We're constantly trying to learn to bring soccer to the highest level, both on the field and off the field, and hopefully build a brand that truly represents Arizona and that one team that everyone — it's their team, right? As you look at the market, with all due respect, there's a lot of people that have, you know, relocated to Arizona. That's no secret. They come and, you know, they're from Chicago and still root for the Cubs if the Cubs are in town. Phoenix Rising can be Arizona's team that everyone is behind and supports, and be that one unifying team, which we're pretty excited about that opportunity and the potential.

BRODIE: All right. Bobby Dulle is general manager of Phoenix Rising. Bobby, thanks for coming in.

DULLE: Thank you.

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