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Score! Phoenix Rising FC signs soccer legend Didier Drogba

Belgium's Anthony Vanden Borre, right, challenges Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba during a friendly soccer match at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels on Wednesday March 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

PHOENIX — Phoenix Rising FC, a Valley soccer team with Major League Soccer aspirations, made a major-league move Wednesday when it signed soccer legend Didier Drogba to a contract.

“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 press release.

The 39-year-old Ivory Coast native most recently played for the Montreal Impact in the MLS.

He will join the Phoenix team as a player, but will later transition into an executive position with the “Phoenix MLS expansion franchise.”

“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 the release.

Drobga will join several other big names at the club, including Mexican international star Omar Bravo and England international player Shaun Wright-Phillips.

The team has Drogba-branded merchandise available in its team store.

Drogba has played in some of the world’s biggest soccer leagues, including the top tiers in England, France, Turkey and China. He has won 17 trophies in 22 major finals and is widely regarded as one of the world’s best center forwards.

Phoenix Rising is hoping the momentum behind the team proves enough to solidify its bid to become an MLS franchise. The club was asked to submit its bid by MLS earlier this year.

MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said in January that the Valley of the Sun has been on the league’s radar for an expansion team for years.

“In fact, we visited Phoenix and toured potential stadium sites 13 years ago, including the site recently secured by Phoenix Rising FC within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in south Scottsdale,” he said.

Abbott was referring to Phoenix Rising’s new stadium complex that was announced late last year.

Phoenix will battle it out with at least nine other cities for the two MLS expansion franchises that are expected to be awarded later this year. The other cities being considered are Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Diego and Tampa Bay.

The team would begin MLS play in 2020 should Phoenix win one of the expansion slots.

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