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SOCCER

Season over, but fortunes rising for Phoenix Rising

By - Nov 13, 2017

By Christopher Gleason/For The Sporting Nation 


Phoenix Rising FC's season came to an end Sunday, October 22, putting the wraps on the soccer franchise's first year under new ownership and a new brand. 
            
The team feels good about where it is though, especially in generating fan support and interest in the team.  
           
“I still think we’re at the floor of where we can be,” Sam Doerr, vice president of sales and marketing, said recently. “I think this year was a good start, but I think the ceiling is far far higher.”

The team has good reason to be optimistic, as it had the biggest increase in attendance in North American soccer at over 300 percent, according to Doerr.

The USL, the league in which Phoenix Rising plays, just concluded its postseaso on Monday. The offseason is on for the rapidly-growing league that enjoyed success on many fronts this year.

“I think the thing that sells any team is word of mouth from people that are active (in going to games),” Jose Bosch, Rising's head of media relations, said. “The more sellouts you have the more you have those people telling their friends ‘hey, you should come to this game you really don’t want to miss out on this.’”

Phoenix also benefits from demographics favorable to supporting a pro soccer team, something sales manager Joey Castor tabs as a cause of the increased attendance.

“Obviously there’s a lot of soccer fans out here whether it’s that youth soccer market or Hispanic (and) Latino markets as well,” Castor said. “We have one of the largest (Hispanic and Latino markets) out of the cities that are bidding for an MLS (Major League Soccer) spot.”

While Phoenix is one of many cities hoping to be a part of MLS expansion in the coming year, players like Didier Drogba and Omar Bravo have kept fans interested even at the USL level.

“I think at the start of the year, especially that Didier and Omar really helped put us on the map and got people interested and excited and so the results didn’t much matter,” Doerr said. “But I think as the season went on it was more about Phoenix Rising and the team doing well than it was necessarily just about Omar and Didier.”

A combination of high profile players and winning will always draw interest amongst the city’s established soccer fans. However, Castor believes the team selling out games plays a big role in drawing non-soccer fans to games as well.

“Other people see that it’s a product that others are going to,” Castor said. “When we’re selling out games, people that have never been to a soccer game before kind of take notice and want to experience it for themselves.”
            
The team has already shifted its focus to drawing fans for the 2018 season. In fact, it is offering a Drogba bobblehead to those who sign up for season ticket packages.

“We’ve certainly moved some tickets because of it and I think we’ll continue to move more.” Doerr said. “I think it’s a really cool item and I think it’s gotten people excited and hopefully it will continue to keep them excited.”

While an MLS bid is an uncertainty for the near future, the organization feels that it already has a team the city can rally around.

“We have the market going our way,” Castor said. “(We) finally put a product that Phoenix and Arizona as a whole can get behind.”

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