TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - FC Tucson is turning pro.
Six years after being named the semi-pro Premiere Development League's rookie franchise of the year, FC Tucson is set become the first west coast franchise for a new division within the United Soccer League, USL Division III. FC Tucson will now be a professional organization.
"Tucson was always on our radar. FC Tucson specifically," said USL Division III Vice President Steven Short. "They've always been a high performer. Always been highly active in their community. They're attendance numbers have always been high. Competitively, they have a great pedigree when it comes to on-field players as well as players moving on to the professional ranks. So, when we started looking to the different regions of the country that we wanted to grow, it was automatic that we wanted FC Tucson to be one of those individuals."
In the current setup, Major League Soccer is sanctioned as a Division I league with the United Soccer League acting as a Division II feeder. The creation of a new Division III will feed into the USL. For FC Tucson, it's a move that makes sense given the moves made last fall when USL's Phoenix Rising acquired the team.
"The ownership is one of the top three elements we look for," said Short. "When that transition was made, it was tremendous to see the opportunity that laid in waiting for a USL team with a division two rank to actually own and operate a team in the division three rank effectively creating a feeder system of professional soccer in Arizona. "
USL Division III is supposed to officially launch in 2019. As it stands, there is only one team other than FC Tucson included on the roster, South Georgia Tormenta FC. Short and his staff headquartered in Tampa Bay, Florida have their work cut out for them. Until the West Coast conference is finalized, there is a chance FC Tucson may not begin play in the league until 2020.
"Right now, we're focused on making sure they have a great geographic region to play in," said Short. "We're optimistic and conducting the work to give them good travel partners. We wanted to make sure there was a strong structure in place."
In other words, fans should have some patience because the future seems quite bright.