San Diego will become the home of Major League Soccer’s newest team, majority-owned by British-Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour, it was announced Thursday.
The expansion club — the league’s 30th team — will begin play in MLS in 2025 at 35,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium. The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation are also in the ownership team, as is six-time Major League Baseball All- Star and current member of the San Diego Padres, Manny Machado.
“We are thrilled to welcome San Diego to Major League Soccer as our 30th team,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “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.”
The team’s name and crest will be announced in the buildup to beginning play in 2025. Soccer fans can reserve their place on the list for season tickets to San Diego’s inaugural MLS season by paying $18 at SanDiegoFC.com.
Mansour is the founder and chairman of the London-based investment management firm Man Capital, which owns Right to Dream — a global soccer community of academies, clubs and partners focused on identifying and nurturing talent.
“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,” Mansour said. “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,” he said.
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 with major institutions in the community, including the San Diego Padres, San Diego Symphony, Rady Children’s Hospital and local nonprofits.
“What a proud moment this is for the city and the Sycuan Tribe to bring MLS to San Diego,” said Sycuan Tribal Chairman Cody Martinez. “Sycuan has deep roots to the San Diego community and found an incredible partner in Mohamed Mansour and the soccer expertise that he brings with Right to Dream.”
Machado joined the Padres as part of a then record breaking contract in 2019. Throughout his career, he and his wife Yainee have placed an emphasis on engaging with and helping underserved kids in their community, a statement from the league reads.
“I continue to plant roots in this amazing community that means so much to me and build upon my connection with the incredible fans,” he said. “I’m further encouraged by the club’s commitment and experience that it brings, through Right to Dream, in developing young athletes personally, academically and athletically, and excited to support the growth of soccer in San Diego.”
The San Diego Wave, which began play in the National Women’s Soccer League in 2022, already plays in Snapdragon Stadium and set a league single- game attendance record of 32,000 against Angel City FC last September.
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. Welsh club Wrexham AFC and British soccer giant Manchester United will play a friendly at Snapdragon on July 25.
Other founding partners include Brad Termini, co-founder of Zephyr Partners, Tom Vernon, founderof Right to Dream and Dan Dickinson, board member, Right to Dream. Tom Penn, previously president and co-owner of MLS’s Los Angeles Football Club, will serve as the club’s CEO.
Meanwhile, in response to rumors of the MLS expansion last week, the ownership of one of San Diego’s existing professional soccer clubs — San Diego Loyal SC of the USL Championship — put out a defiant statement last week saying the team isn’t “going anywhere.”
“Our unwavering commitment is to the vision of growing soccer in this city, and we want to make that abundantly clear,” said Andrew Vassiliadis, chairman and owner of SD Loyal. “Landon Donovan, the entire San Diego Loyal team and I are dedicated to this mission, and we will continue to work tirelessly to achieve it. Our passion for soccer and for our community will never falter.”
Donovan, a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, coached SD Loyal for its first three seasons, 2020-22, then became its executive vice president of soccer operations in December 2022.
–City News Service