Now that the NASL has officially cancelled its 2018 season, San Diego’s 1904 FC is revealing that it plans to move to the USL and begin play in 2019.
It was revealed last year that San Diego would be an expansion market for the NASL in 2018, but that scenario has been in doubt since the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) announced in September that the league would not retain its Division II status for the 2018 season. NASL had sued USSF over the demotion and sought an immediate injunction. That failed, and NASL appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; that appeal failed last week, although the original lawsuit will proceed.
In the aftermath of the appeals court loss, NASL announced that it will cancel its 2018 season, with three of its remaining members–Jacksonville Armada FC, Miami FC, and New York Cosmos–making plans to play in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) this year. In regards to its future, 1904 FC is now stating that it is finalizing its plan to shift to the USL and anticipates beginning play next year.
According to club president Bob Watkins, the move provides additional certainty about the club’s status and allows 1904 FC to proceed in making plans for the 2019 season. More from The San Diego Union-Tribune:
The NASL franchise agreement allows clubs a one-month escape clause with little financial liability each September, but this season that was extended through the winter while awaiting the court decision on the injunction. Watkins said 1904 FC quietly exercised it a month ago but waited to announce their departure until the appeal was denied “out of respect to NASL.”
Watkins said his ownership group – which is headed by Senegalese soccer star Demba Ba and includes Chelsea’s Eden Hazard – initially considered USL, but the league was lukewarm on San Diego given the stadium uncertainty and the immediate availability of other markets. Watkins renewed talks with CEO Alec Papadakis two months ago, and they reached an agreement in principle last week.
“From a business point of view, I think it’s a very good decision,” Watkins said. “And it keeps our promise to the San Diego region that we wanted to bring the best professional soccer program that we could put together.
“Now we concentrate on the message. We concentrate on the playing side of it.”
Furthermore, 1904 FC will continue to work on its plan for a new stadium in Oceanside. Per the Union-Tribune, Watkins indicated that the club could begin play at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium if the new Oceanside venue is not ready next season. At one point, both 1904 FC and a new Orange County-based club were to join the NASL in 2018.
As for the USL, 1904 FC’s arrival would mark the entrance of another club that will begin play in 2019. Birmingham Legion FC and a Memphis team based at AutoZone Park are both set to join the league next season, and a USL Austin club is working on a 2019 launch.
RELATED STORIES: NASL Scraps 2018 Season; Three Teams to NPSL; 1904 FC Could Push Debut Back to 2019; 1904 FC Stadium Still Pending Approval in Some Areas; 1904 FC Unveils Oceanside Stadium Plan; New for 2018: 1904 FC; San Diego NASL Expansion Team in Works