July 27, 2021
In the past decade alone, San Diego has added two professional soccer teams, San Diego Loyal SC and San Diego 1904 FC, and will welcome a professional women’s soccer team in 2022.
Despite the recent rise in football culture, however, one noticeable league is still missing: Major League Soccer.
Rumors of an MLS team coming to San Diego have been around for years but never came true. The region is clearly a great place to play for professional football, but two of the biggest obstacles remain an MLS-compliant venue and the high costs associated with locating a team.
In contrast to other major sports leagues, every team within the MLS technically belongs to the league itself. Groups of so-called “investor operators” can bring in certain amounts of money in exchange for participating in a team. For example, Anschutz Entertainment Group, also known as AEG, owns the Los Angeles Galaxy.
There are two options for owner groups looking to expand into new cities like San Diego. One would be to take an existing team and move it to San Diego. The other would be for the MLS to work with a group of investors to create a new team also known as the expansion team.
Most of the discussions about bringing MLS to San Diego revolve around the latter option, the same process most cities go through to get a team. It’s the option a group called FS Investors tried to enforce when they launched the SoccerCity plan in Mission Valley in November 2018, but voters instead opted for a San Diego State University-backed plan to build a stadium to build the same terrain.
Financially, the process of getting an MLS team to a new city is complicated. For one thing, the cost of joining a new team is substantial and increasing. The value of the teams themselves is rising too – Forbes reported in 2019 that the average value of an MLS team reached $ 313 million.
Dike Anyiwo, a San Diegan resident and former editor-in-chief of SoccerNation.com, said the expansion fee alone can cost more than $ 215 million, “and that doesn’t include payrolls, contracts, and any marketing or club operations. and you start thinking about the average salary and roster size, which is at least hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s no small expense. “
Another major financial factor for an MLS expansion into San Diego would have to be venues.
With the former Qualcomm Stadium gone – the Chargers’ old home – San Diego is currently lacking a venue with amenities that would fit an MLS franchise. That doesn’t mean it is impossible.
In Mission Valley, San Diego State University is just over a year away from building the 35,000-seat Aztec Stadium. The university says the new venue could one day be a home for professional football.
SDSU officials confirmed they were in talks with MLS, but only to share updates on site development.
“Throughout this process, we continued to provide updates (to MLS officials) on project details about where we were from the beginning,” said Derek Grice, Executive Associate Athletic Director, Mission Valley Development.
MLS representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
- Speculation about the launch of MLS to San Diego has only been fueled in recent months by news that a billionaire has withdrawn a proposal to bring an expansion team to Sacramento.
It is currently unknown if the SDSU is also speaking to an owner group to get an MLS team to play at Aztec Stadium. But it’s no secret that the university built the stadium with professional football in mind.
The SDSU is integrating certain MLS field and stadium requirements into the stadium design, the Union-Tribune reported.
The university plans to use the Aztec Stadium 365 days a year for events, including professional football, Grice said.
“We’re building a stadium that … will be a great venue, not just for the state of San Diego, for soccer, for concerts, for family entertainment, local and other professional sports like rugby lacrosse,” said Grice. “You name it, we host it.”
Despite the potential opportunity in Mission Valley, some local football experts like Anyiwo believe the chance of an MLS team playing there is slim.
For one thing, MLS has “an odd requirement,” Anyiwo said, that owner groups “control their own venues and facilities. Not thinking what is being built in Mission Valley makes the (soccer) market of San Diego more exciting. “
Anyiwo believes getting a franchise to San Diego can take time.
“There are opportunities, there are appetites, there are all sorts of ingredients in the San Diego area for an MLS team to come here and be successful.” he said. “But you don’t just sprint out of the womb. You crawl and walk, then you run. “
Voice of San Diego is a non-profit news organization supported by our members. We reveal why things are the way they are, reveal facts that those in power out there may not want, and explain complex local public policy issues so you can get involved and make good decisions. Sign up for our newsletter at voiceofsandiego.org/newsletters/.