San Diego to receive 30th Major League Soccer franchise
Major League Soccer has awarded San Diego its 30th franchise, which is set to join the league in 2025.
The expansion team announced Thursday is owned by billionaire Mohamed Mansour and the Sycuan Tribe, the first Native American tribe to have an ownership stake in a professional soccer team. The ownership group also includes San Diego Padres star third baseman Manny Machado.
The addition of the San Diego franchise balances MLS at 15 teams per conference. A team name and crest will be revealed in the future.
The team will play at San Diego State's Snapdragon Stadium, which opened last year. The stadium is also home to the San Diego Wave of the National Women's Soccer League and the university's football team.
Mansour, who is based in London, is worth an estimated $3.6 billion. He is founder of Man Capital, an investment management firm which owns Right to Dream, an organization that helps identify and develop talented soccer players internationally. Mansour is also majority owner of a Danish soccer club.
Mansour said the Sycuan Tribe's participation was vital to the bid.
“I’m a businessman and I tell you the partnership is the most important thing. And we were aligned right from the beginning, our values we have, and commitment we have,” he told The Associated Press.
“San Diego has been eager for another major league sports team, especially since the vacancy created by the NFL departure,” said Sycuan Tribal Chairman Cody Martinez. “Sycuan, my tribe, has thousands of years of history in the San Diego region, but also has decades of strong, solid support for sports in this town. And so it was really a natural evolution."
San Diego's soccer tradition dates back to the late 1970s with the San Diego Sockers of the North American Soccer League. The city currently hosts the USL Championship club, the San Diego Loyal, which was co-founded by National Soccer Hall of Famer Landon Donovan.
The Wave, in its second season, is drawing an average of more than 21,000 fans to Snapdragon.
“It’s a dream team from an ownership perspective, but the market speaks for itself. This is a soccer hotbed, so many of our players that come from this city, we’ve had great national team games here, CONCACAF games here, enormous success with friendlies, the women’s team is doing well," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "We’ve wanted an MLS team here for many, many years, arguably since the beginning of the league, 10 years to get to this point."
Donovan previously led an effort to bring an MLS team to San Diego but a stadium referendum was rejected by voters there in 2018.
San Diego Loyal Chairman Andrew Vassiliadis issued a statement earlier this month about the potential MLS team.
“Our unwavering commitment is to the vision of growing soccer in this city, we want to make that abundantly clear,” he wrote. “Landon Donovan, the entire San Diego Loyal team and I are dedicated to this mission, and we will continue to work tirelessly to achieve it."
Tom Penn, a former NBA executive and ESPN analyst who served as president of LAFC until 2020, will be the San Diego team's chief executive officer.