With it increasingly looking like MLS will end up at 32 teams by the end of the decade, Major League Soccer awarded the 30th slot in the league to a San Diego investment group, with the expansion club set to launch in the 2025 season and playing out of Snapdragon Stadium.
Despite MLS’s past insistence that club control their own venues, the club will play as a tenant at 35,000-capacity Snapdragon Stadium, on the campus of San Diego State University. The venue, designed with pro soccer as a consideration as well as a main role as hosting college football, is also home to NWSL’s San Diego Wave FC. San Diego Wave made a successful debut at Snapdragon Stadium in 2022, setting a single-game NWSL attendance record with a sold-out crowd of 32,000. Southern California is turning out to be ground zero for American soccer, and Snapdragon Stadium is turning out to be a key venue in this growth; besides hosting MLS and NWSL soccer, major international soccer events coming to the venue this year include Mexico vs. Cameroon on June 10 and the semifinal match in the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup on July 12.
San Diego’s MLS club will be owned by Mohamed Mansour, an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist with global ties in the sport, and by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. The Sycuan Tribe becomes the first Native American tribe to have an ownership stake in professional soccer in the United States. Also joining the investor group is San Diego Padre Manny Machado, the six-time Major League Baseball All-Star. Other founding partners include Brad Termini, Co-founder, Zephyr Partners; Tom Vernon, Founder, Right to Dream; and Dan Dickinson, Board Member, Right to Dream. Sports executive Tom Penn will serve as the club’s CEO.
“We are thrilled to welcome San Diego to Major League Soccer as our 30th team,” MLB Commissioner Don Garber said via press release. “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.”
Mansour is the founder and chairman of the London-based investment management firm Man Capital, which owns Right to Dream (RTD), the global soccer community of academies, clubs and partners with an innovative approach to identifying and nurturing talent. RTD has developed numerous world-class players who have gone on to play at the highest level for club and country in MLS, the UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup, including seven graduates who represented their countries in the 2022 World Cup. RTD also operates an elite performance and development environment at top tier Danish club FC Nordsjaelland.
“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,” Mansour said via press release. “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.”
Image courtesy MLS.