USL: Drogba Rising to new challenge

Drogba will of course be reunited with former Chelsea teammate Shaun Wright-Phillips, who is beginning to find his own role in the starting lineup. Today, apparently embracing the whole retirement thing even more, he announced that he's moving to Phoenix, Arizona.

"We want our club and our city to be synonymous with worldwide excellence, and Didier Drogba is a testament to Phoenix Rising FC's commitment to that mission", said Phoenix governor Berke Bakay. Although there is no promotion and relegation between the USL and MLS, Phoenix is vying to become one of the top tier's expansion teams.

"It's a big project and they offered me the chance to become co-owner with my experience and knowledge from football for all these years as a player, to help the club to grow and become a big part of the MLS", he said.

MLS intends to expand to another four teams for the 2020 season, and there are 12 teams vying for those spots - including St. Louis, whose bid is murky at the moment.

"Drogba will help develop the team as a player before advancing to an executive role with the Phoenix MLS expansion franchise", the club said on its official website.

"I had offers to carry on playing in the Premier League, the Championship, the Middle East, China and South America".

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The USL is the world's largest Division II professional soccer league, with 30 markets in 20 US states and two Canadian provinces for the 2017 season.

Drogba's move to Phoenix serves as proof that he not only believes soccer is going to stick around, but that the Rising will also. The club has former Chelsea and Manchester City man Shaun Wright-Phillips as well as former Mexico global Omar Bravo.

Drogba, who was adept at convincing the likes of Eden Hazard and Eric Bailly to move to the Premier League, will be hoping to performing similar feats for his new club and assembling a prize-winning squad.

Drogba, 39, has not played since leaving Major League Soccer club Montreal Impact in November.

The veteran's last season in the MLS was marked by tension between the player and his club, with the nadir coming in October when he refused to be a part of the Impact's matchday squad after learning he was not in the starting line-up.

"I know [what he is planning to do]" he said, before reportedly laughing and refusing to expand on his answer.

  • Lawrence Cooper