When Major League Soccer executive Nelson Rodriguez came to Tucson in July 2011, he watched an FC Tucson match played at Cienega High School.
The artificial turf field sporting a maze of football lines wasn't exactly the perfect welcome mat for a top soccer official.
"When I came here, I saw great hotels, went to great restaurants, great weather and incredibly friendly people, but I didn't see a soccer field," Rodriguez said during Wednesday's Desert Diamond Cup doubleheader at Kino Stadium.
"I come back two years later, and there are five permanent, full-time fields. There's a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art small stadium being built. The tournament has expanded in size and scope. They've just done everything right."
Rodriguez, the executive vice president of competition and game operations for MLS, says there's a logical next step.
"Where we would like to get to with Tucson is - it's currently the Western hub of our preseason - but what we'd like to do is formalize that in an agreement," Rodriguez said. "Preferably in a long-term deal where we know we will be coming here with a certain number of teams for the next, I don't know, three, four, five or more years."
Even a disappointing crowd of 1,162 at Wednesday's matches couldn't rain on that enthusiasm.
"We view the event on its totality, not on any individual night," Rodriguez said. "The tournament is bigger. It's longer. It's got more dates. When the new stadium is built, it might make sense for the midweek matches to be at the smaller venue and the weekend matches to be (at Kino Stadium).
"They also had a series of friendlies involving four or five other MLS teams. So, at the end of the day, there will be more fans who have attended more soccer this year than last year. And that's how we have to look at it. And we think that's a good thing."
• What: Desert Diamond Cup
• When: Saturday; Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake, 4 p.m.; New York vs. New England, 6 p.m.
• Where: Kino Stadium