If ever you needed a literal celebration for how head over heels the support is for football in the United States then you need not look no further than Phoenix Rising.
Born purely out of ambition, this is a club built on a shared idea and boasts an inspired sentiment thanks to their growing support on and off the pitch.
To wind things back somewhat, imagine a role reversal - you're in middle England and a consortium of creatives, from musicians to business connoisseurs, not to mention elite ex-players, decide to invent a club out of nothing on your doorstep. They bring flairs, encourage an 'ultra' spirit and emblazon 'mad decent' across their kits. Like a maverick setting up shop in Shropshire and getting their feet right under the rug, it's a beautiful way to defy convention.
No disrespect to Shropshire, of course, the point is to demonstrate that the culture in the country where football was born is just not the same, historically, as those countries where they are singularly looking forward and bidding to create something wholly fresh, like parts of the United States.
Again to reiterate, it's important to be careful with sweeping statements or generalisations such as the above as the revolution across non-league football right now where the likes of Dulwich Hamlet, Lewes FC, Clapton Ultras and many, many more look to defy the mould and make for a more wholesome and involving experience where watching the game is concerned. Indeed in England too, the red tape is being torn up along with the tired professional policy that restricts a creative club feel.
So, who the heck are Phoenix Rising? Well, founded in 2013 and initially set up as Arizona United SC, they are a professional outfit that sit in the second tier of the football pyramid in the United States. Also known as the USL. Undergoing a re-brand in 2014 and setting sights on a place in the MLS, their owners bring a touch of glamour to the table. Of Fall Out Boy fame, Pete Wentz is a co-owner, as DJ and Producer Diplo and among others, while Didier Drogba also recently joined the board. On top of that, the club has also attracted the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips who now suits up for the first team. Not short of big names, there’s many a reason why this bunch are turning heads.
What looks to be quite the football party, the pitchside scenes are pretty powerful, especially for a club in its infancy. The question is now open as to whether they can be embraced by the MLS. Bidding for a piece of the franchise, the club is working with Goldman Sachs in putting together their proposal to showcase just why they have the scale to command a spot in America’s top flight. A fascinating watch, we’ll follow on from afar. They’ve certainly got serious support with fans creating serious fever. Game on.
Photography by Grace Stufkosky