The United Soccer League's Phoenix Rising have announced the signing of Didier Drogba as a player-executive, with the hope the former Chelsea star can help the team in its bid to join Major League Soccer.
Drogba, 39, called time on his two seasons with the Montreal Impact of MLS at the end of the 2016 season and turned down a move to Brazilian club Corinthians in the winter transfer window as he weighed his options.
The club said in a statement on its website that "Drogba will help develop the team as a player before advancing to an executive role with the Phoenix MLS expansion franchise."
- Didier Drogba (@didierdrogba) April 12, 2017
Drogba will team up with former New York Red Bull Shaun Wright-Phillips and former Mexico international Omar Bravo as the club vies for one of the four coveted expansion spots on offer from MLS that are expected to be announced later in 2017.
"I have taken my time in deciding what I wanted to do next and am really excited about the opportunity at Phoenix Rising FC," Drogba said. "After seeing first hand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch.
"I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS."
USL president Jake Edwards welcomed Drogba and expressed his delight at the addition of a star with the Ivorian's stature to the league.
"The USL is a league on the rise, and today we welcome global superstar Didier Drogba, who joins the growing number of elite, world-class players and rising young talent who choose to make our league their home," Edwards said. "I also applaud Didier's commitment to further the overall growth of the game in North America.
"He will be a great ambassador for our sport, using his experience, talent and vision to benefit fans, as well as fellow players. His invaluable mentorship will guide our young stars in the locker room and on the field, contributing to the future success of our league and the game for years to come."