Landon Donovan, Warren Smith to Back San Diego USL Club

USL Championship

A San Diego USL Championship club is reportedly in the works, with the team to be backed by a group led by London Donovan and Warren Smith.

In what marks the latest effort to bring professional soccer to San Diego, Donovan and Smith will lead the launch of a Division II USL Championship expansion club. Current plans call for the team to begin play in either 2020 or 2021, with home matches staged at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium.

The background of this group is unique, given Donovan’s success as a player and his previous involvement in a San Diego MLS expansion bid that called for the construction of a new stadium as part of the SoccerCity development. Smith, meanwhile, was the founder of USL Championship’s successful Sacramento Republic FC.

Smith is currently majority owner of the San Diego club, with Donovan serving as an investor and executive vice president of soccer operations. An official announcement is expected Wednesday. More from

Smith also believes in San Diego’s soccer potential, and he’s been familiar with the area for years. His family often vacationed there, and his son just graduated from San Diego State this spring. Considering his status, the gradual reduction of Smith’s profile at Republic and then 2018 depature felt a bit awkward. But he’s a “start-up guy,” he said, not a billionaire who can carry a club into MLS. He worked as a consultant for a while, primarily with OKC Energy, before turning his attention toward San Diego.

“This is really a great opportunity to help the people of San Diego accomplish what I really think they want to accomplish,” Smith said.

Added USL CEO Alec Papadakis in a statement: “San Diego is a proud community with a rich soccer history, and we have no doubt that Warren Smith, a man of great experience and character, will lead this club successfully into the future.”

As noted, Donovan was part of a recent San Diego MLS expansion effort that was led by FS Investors. That proposal called for a new stadium as part of a larger redevelopment of the SDCCU Stadium site, but it fizzled out after San Diego voters in November chose a competing plan for the property that included a new SDSU stadium and surrounding development.

Image of USL action courtesy USL and Orange County SC.

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