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Phoenix Rising lands big investor, should help future MLS bid

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PHOENIX — Phoenix Rising FC, a professional soccer team based in the Valley, has attracted a big-name investor that could up its potential to become a Major League Soccer team.

In a release, the team said Advantage Sports Union Ltd. had signed onto the Rising ownership group that already included people from Four Peaks Brewing Company and Kona Grill, among other companies, and owner-player Didier Drogba.

Advantage’s chairman, Alex Zheng, created a 3,000-property hotel chain in Asia and is also a significant investor in OGC Nice, a French team that plays some of the best squads in Europe.

“We were fortunate and flattered to meet with a number of impressive investors who have interest in Phoenix Rising FC, but Alex Zheng was exceptional,” Berke Bakay, the team’s governor, said in the release.

“His amazing knowledge, experience and intellect were only exceeded by his incredible personality and passion for our sport.”

Zheng said he hopes to help the team achieve its goal of becoming an MLS team and growing youth soccer in Arizona, a state to which he has special ties.

“Personally, I have a deep connection with Phoenix, a wonderful place where my daughter was born,” he said.

“To partner with Phoenix Rising FC along with all of its great owners is not just a business deal, it’s personal for me as well.”

Related: Phoenix Rising optimistic despite recent MLS snub

Phoenix did not make the cut for the latest round of MLS expansion finalists last year, but it could be in a good position to get a franchise the next time around.

In addition to a deep ownership group with some star power — DJ Diplo and Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz are also investors — the team plans to build a soccer-specific stadium.

Phoenix Rising currently plays its matches at a pop-up stadium near McClintock Drive and the Loop 202 in Tempe.

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