New arena soccer team coming to Rio Rancho

by Steve Virgen / ABQ Journal

RIO RANCHO — About six months ago, Andres Trujillo told his father, Edwin, about a crazy, yet intriguing idea to bring arena soccer to New Mexico.

Edwin said he responded with two words — well, questions.

“What?” Edwin said. “Really?”

“I’ve lived in New Mexico all my life,” said Edwin, 52. “I’ve seen (semi-pro and minor league) teams come and go.”

But the father and son believe arena soccer can stick in New Mexico, with a new team coming to Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center. They made the announcement Wednesday that the New Mexico Runners will begin playing games in December.

Andres, who turns 32 on Saturday, is president and CEO of the new arena soccer league team. He was an owner of the Duke City Gladiators (indoor football), but said he stepped away this year to focus on the Runners project. He is also an investor in the Albuquerque Sol, an outdoor soccer team in the Premier Development League. He is on the board of directors for the New Mexico Games.

Edwin is the co-founder of the Runners. Andres’ sister, Angelica Delgado, is the team’s sales director.

“We’re a family organization, and that’s what we’re building our organization around,” Andres told the media in a room at the Santa Ana Star Center. “My dad being a part of it, my sister being a part of it, other family members being a part of this organization is a very important thing to us. We want to translate that to the community, that it’s all about the family. We’re all one community, one family and that’s what this organization is all about.”

Edwin said he doesn’t watch much soccer, but he thinks that getting the community involved and building up the team can make the difference to succeed as a semi-pro team in New Mexico.

As of now, the team has no coach or players. Andres said tryouts likely will take place in August. He said the team will feature local players — maybe just out of high school or at University of New Mexico — so that their friends can come watch them play for the Runners at a reasonable price with tickets starting at $10 and as high as $50 for front-row seats.

The new organization will also rely on the fast-paced action of arena soccer to draw spectators. Arena soccer is 5v5 with many final-game scores in double figures. The Runners will play in the Major Arena Soccer League’s lower division, M2. They are among 11 teams, with more squads expected to be added. They are in the Western Division with five other teams.

There are 12 regular-season games slated for the season that runs from December through March. The Runners will play six home games with an additional exhibition game.

Albuquerque will have a United Soccer League team that plays March to October, it was announced earlier this month. Andres said he doesn’t think the Runners are competing with that team for fans.

Rio Rancho mayor Gregg Hull also attended the press conference, welcoming the new team. He put on a New Mexico Runners T-shirt, calling the act “a shameless plug,” and hugged Andres afterward.

Andres Trujillo, who also worked extensively in local media during the past 10 years, said he is passionate about having sports teams in New Mexico. Technically, he is bringing arena soccer back to New Mexico, as the Albuquerque Outlaws played in the Southwest Indoor Soccer League from 1986-91. A few other teams tried to bring arena soccer back to New Mexico but ultimately folded.

“There are many times I had an opportunity to go elsewhere, like to Phoenix and other states, but I want to keep my talents here,” he said. “I wanna be here in New Mexico because it’s important. This state, I have a passion for it.”