Major League Soccer (MLS) has fulfilled long-held ambitions to place a team in San Diego, with the League’s 30th franchise to play at Snapdragon Stadium.
MLS commissioner Don Garber made the announcement yesterday (Thursday), with the San Diego team to begin play in 2025. The franchise has been acquired for a reported $500m (£403.1m/€464m), a record fee for an MLS club.
San Diego’s MLS club will be owned by Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour and by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. Mansour is the founder and chairman of London-based investment management firm Man Capital, which owns Right to Dream (RTD), the global soccer community of academies, clubs and partners. RTD also operates an elite performance and development environment at Danish Superliga club FC Nordsjaelland.
Mansour said: “We couldn’t be more excited to partner with the Sycuan Tribe to bring Major League Soccer to such a deserving community and legion of San Diego soccer fans. This is a real opportunity to create a powerful and lasting legacy for the city and region.
“We look forward to introducing Right to Dream’s unique developmental approach and unparalleled soccer expertise to San Diego and MLS by delivering tangible benefits to the community as we look to open doors and identify and nurture talent from across the county and beyond.”
The Sycuan Tribe becomes the first Native American tribe to have an ownership stake in professional soccer in the United States. One of 12 Kumeyaay tribes in San Diego County, Sycuan has been a long-term partner of several major institutions in the community, including Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the San Diego Padres.
Also joining the investor group is six-time MLB All-Star and current Padres player, Manny Machado. Other founding partners include Brad Termini, co-founder of Zephyr Partners; Tom Vernon, founder of RTD; and Dan Dickinson, board member of RTD. Tom Penn, who served as president of MLS team LAFC until 2020, has been appointed as the new club’s CEO.
The club will play, through a 30-year lease deal, at 35,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium, which has already proven to be a popular soccer venue since opening in September. During its opening month, San Diego Wave FC set a single-game attendance record in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) with a sold-out crowd of more than 32,000 at Snapdragon Stadium.
The stadium, which is located on the campus of San Diego State University and features a natural grass playing surface, hosted a Liga MX friendly match in March between Club Tijuana and Club América. Major international soccer events coming to the venue this year include Mexico vs. Cameroon on June 10 and the semi-final match in the 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup on July 12.
San Diego has been a target market for MLS since the League launched in 1996. MLS has also been a target of Snapdragon Stadium operators and San Diego recently surpassed Las Vegas in the race for the 30th franchise.
With the announcement of San Diego, 19 clubs have now joined MLS since 2005, fulfilling a vision for strategic expansion. The new franchise now balances the League at 15 teams per conference, with Garber stating yesterday that further expansion is not in the organisation’s immediate thoughts.
He added: “For many years we have believed San Diego would be a terrific MLS market due to its youthful energy, great diversity, and the fact that soccer is an essential part of everyday life for so many people. Mohamed Mansour and the Sycuan Tribe have an incredible vision for building a club that will inspire and unite soccer fans throughout the city and region.”