Didier Drogba, pictured during his prime, will try to boost Phoenix Rising FC in the USL standings and into the MLS standings. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
Didier Drogba’s next stop? Arizona.
No, not for retirement, but to play with Phoenix Rising FC of the United Soccer League and with the hope of turning it into a Major League Soccer expansion team.
The former Ivory Coast international striker signed with Phoenix and joined its MLS expansion franchise ownership group.
As part of the agreement, Drogba will help develop the team as a player before advancing to an executive role with the Phoenix MLS expansion franchise, assuming the club is awarded a berth in the league.
Phownix is in its fourth season in the United Soccer League. As per club and USL policy, the financial terms of the contract were not revealed.
Drogba, who turned 39 on March 11, last played with the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer in 2015-16, scoring 21 goals in 33 appearances.
“We want our club and our city to be synonymous with international excellence, and Didier Drogba is a testament to Phoenix Rising FC’s commitment to that mission,” Phoenix Rising Club Governor Berke Bakay said in a statement. “Soccer is an international language understood by sports fans all over the world, and we want to help inspire fluency among new fans every where we play throughout North America.”
Drogba has won 17 trophies in 22 major finals, including four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Community Shields, one Turkish Süper Lig, one Turkish Süper Kupa and one Turkish Küpasi. He spent nine years, 2004-2012 and the 2014/15 seasons, at Chelsea FC, making a total of 381 appearances scoring 161 goals. In 2012, he was part of Chelsea’s greatest ever achievement in winning the coveted UEFA Champions League trophy. Drogba scored the equalizer, the game-winning penalty, and was chosen man of the match at the UEFA Champions League final.
He has appeared in 106 matches and scored an Ivory Coast-record 66 career goals. He led his national team to its first World Cup appearance in 2006 in Germany and scored the country’s first World Cup goal. He later captained the Ivory Coast in the 2010 (South Africa) and 2014 (Brazil) FIFA World Cups.
“I have taken my time in deciding what I wanted to do next and am really excited about the opportunity at Phoenix Rising FC,” Drogba said in a press release. “After seeing first hand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch. I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS.”