Less than six months after calling time on his stint with the Montreal Impact, Didier Drogba is coming back to North America.
It was announced on Wednesday that the legendary striker has joined USL team Phoenix Rising FC as both a player and a part of the ownership group attempting to move the club into MLS. According to a club release, Drogba will join the club as a player before eventually advancing into an executive role.
Drogba, 39, most recently played with the Montreal Impact. The Ivorian joined the club in the summer of 2015, tallying 21 goals and seven assists in 33 regular season contests and helping the Impact to back-to-back playoff berths before leaving the team after his contract expired following last season.
“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 statement. “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.”
Phoenix Rising FC was one of 12 groups to officially submit an MLS expansion application to the league in January. Now in their fourth year in USL, but first as Phoenix Rising FC, the club’s expansion application included a plan for a new, privately-funded, climate-controlled, soccer-specific stadium on a 45-acre site.
MLS will choose four new expansion teams from the group of 12 applicants to expand the league to 28 teams, with two expansion clubs set to be announced by the end of the year.
Coached by longtime MLS manager Frank Yallop and featuring Drogba’s former Chelsea teammate Shaun Wright-Phillips and ex-Mexican international Omar Bravo, Phoenix Rising FC next play on Saturday, April 23, when they’ll host Swope Park Rangers – Sporting Kansas City’s USL club – in Arizona.