Before soccer stars Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez, Tucson played host to "El Beatle," "Big Al," "Pentapichichi" and a goalkeeper with a fashion flair for the florescent.
The French star and Mexican legend scheduled to ride into Tucson for this weekend's MLS Desert Cup aren't the first soccer greats to pass through the Old Pueblo.
The North American Soccer League, a precursor to the MLS, came to town twice for exhibitions in the late 1970s.
On March 12, 1978, the Dallas Tornado defeated the Los Angeles Aztecs 2-0.
The 4,000 or so who braved miserable weather, which included hail, at Arizona Stadium were treated to a still-mesmerizing George Best of the Aztecs.
The aptly surnamed Northern Irishman - who received the nicknames "El Beatle" and "The Fifth Beatle" for his looks, style and amazing ability - was on the backside of his career, but it hardly mattered to Tucsonans.
"Although Best didn't score any goals, he had many in the crowd cheering with his deft ballhandling, footwork and accurate passes," the Arizona Daily Star wrote of the man who led Manchester United to the 1968 European Cup.
Another star of the 1968 Manchester United team, goalkeeper Alex "Big Al" Stepney, was part of the second NASL exhibition at Arizona Stadium.
Stepney, who gained fame for making a save so impressive that the player who took the shot immediately applauded the keeper's effort, and the Dallas Tornado lost to the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 before about 6,000.
Tucsonans had to wait 17 years to see their next stars of the center circle.
On Feb. 4, 1996, Mexican club Atlante and Austria's FC Linz played to a 1-1 draw in a match that included two of Mexico's greatest.
Striker Hugo Sanchez, considered by many to be the best Mexican player ever, played for the Austrian club against goalkeeper extraordinaire Jorge Campos.
Sanchez didn't end up hitting the back of the net in the match, but the 8,500 at Arizona Stadium cheered him as if he were still the king of Mexico and Spain.
Over six seasons in the 1980s, Sanchez reigned in the Spanish League. The yearly goal-scoring title in Spain is called the "pichichi." Sanchez won five during his time there to earn the moniker "Pentapichichi."
Campos, Sanchez's teammate at the 1994 World Cup, was known for grabbing attention with his acrobatic saves as well as his loud uniforms.
Despite playing just a half at Arizona Stadium, he didn't disappoint - having his usually active game in a jersey that included bright-pink and shorts that were highlight-marker green.
So either way you look at it, literally or figuratively, Tucson's professional soccer has had quite a colorful past. Here's to another vivid chapter at Hi Corbett Field on Friday and Saturday.
If you go
• What: MLS Desert Cup
• Where: Hi Corbett Field
• When: Friday: Arizona Sahuaros vs. Sporting Kansas City, 6 p.m.; FC Tucson vs. New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m. Saturday: FC Tucson vs. Arizona Sahuaros, 6 p.m.; Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m.
• Tickets: For more information, call 334-1115.
This weekend's MLS Desert Cup will be the fourth time top-level soccer has come to Tucson. Here's a look at the other three big-league games in the Old Pueblo with date, teams, site, attendance, stars:
• March 12, 1978: Dallas Tornado 2, Los Angeles Aztecs 0; Arizona Stadium; 4,000; George Best
• March 18, 1979: San Jose Earthquakes 3, Dallas Tornado 1; Arizona Stadium; 6,000; Alex Stepney
• Feb. 4, 1996: Atlante (Mexico) 1, FC Linz (Austria) 1; Arizona Stadium; 8,500; Hugo Sanchez, Jorge Campos