Landon Donovan to lead new San Diego USL franchise

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Landon Donovan will be the leading man as the USL launch a new franchise in San Diego.

The owner of the team will be Warren Smith, who has been involved in minor league baseball teams and founded Sacramento Republic FC who have been one of the most successful lower-league teams in recent history and are now serious contenders to become one of the next MLS expansion franchises with their new ownership structure in place. 

Donovan, 37, will be the executive vice president of soccer operations as well as a minority investor, as San Diego will begin play at Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego in either the 2020 or 2021 season in the USL Championship, the division directly below Major League Soccer.

Speaking to Sports Illustrated about the new team, Donovan revealed why being a big part of something from scratch in San Diego is so important to him.

“San Diego is my new home. I don’t anticipate ever leaving, and I want to do something in this community around soccer that’s special,” Donovan said. “So why wouldn’t I want to do something with someone who clearly knows what they’re doing, who has a track record of success, of doing things with quality, and who’s as passionate as I am? Once I sat and thought about it and was able to let go of the disappointment of the previous two years, this was an absolute no-brainer.”

Donovan’s ties with San Diego has seen him involved in an ownership group which tried to bring an MLS franchise to the Californian city in recent years, but their SoccerCity plan failed to gain backing from local government and is pretty much done and dusted.

The MLS and USMNT legend moved to San Diego to be closer to his in-laws while he and his wife can bring up their family, and he is eager to do all he can to develop soccer in the area.

Donovan has made multiple comebacks in his playing career, most recently with Club Leon in Mexico and the San Diego Sockers of the Major Indoor Soccer League, and that came after heading back to the LA Galaxy after his first retirement in 2016.

But now it seems he is fully focused on matters off the pitch and on developing a focused, successful USL club to San Diego.

Smith’s expertise from Sacramento will be invaluable to building the club from the bottom up, while Donovan will be tasked with creating the structure of the team and everything on the pitch.

San Diego has a rich soccer culture and if TV audiences are anything to go by, there is huge potential for a USL team to gather serious momentum quickly which will turn heads at MLS HQ.