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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.

Hazard and Co. set up NASL club in San Diego

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Soccer in SoCal continues to boom.

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The North American Soccer League (NASL) announced Monday that San Diego will have a second-tier team for the 2018 season as professional soccer returns to San Diego County.

In a statement from the NASL it was revealed that San Diego’s new expansion franchise is owned by star players Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Moussa Sow, as well as executives with experience of the San Diego market.

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Hazard, a star for Chelsea and Belgium, revealed exactly why he believes San Diego deserves a soccer team.

“San Diego is a beautiful place and the love and passion that the people have for soccer made this an easy choice for us,” Hazard said. “My friends and I are honored to turn this dream into a reality and we can’t wait to get started and win some games.”

The quartet do not have a name, logo or colors for the team, but that is expected to be announced in the coming months. Bob Watkins will serve as the club president and Ricardo Campos, former technical director for thew New York Red Bulls, will serve in the front office alongside Katy Temple as the pieces are put in place for another new soccer team in California.

NASL will have 10 teams for the 2018 season with Orange County also joining the league — California added another team to NASL in 2017 in the San Francisco Deltas — which currently shares second-tier status with the much-larger USL who boast 30 teams.

With Orange County and San Diego arriving in NASL in 2018, LAFC to join Major League Soccer in 2018 and a consortium led by former USMNT star Landon Donovan hoping for an MLS expansion team in San Diego (based at the impressive Soccer City complex) in the years to come, soccer in SoCal is booming.

How involved Chelsea star Hazard, Crystal Palace midfielder Cabaye, Shanghai Shenhua striker Ba and Al-Ahli forward Sow get remains to be seen but they’ve obviously seen a gap in the market in San Diego.

VIDEO: San Diego “unveils” Footy McFooty Face (then ends the fun)

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April Fools’ Day generally means a variety of busted, unfunny jokes from the sporting world (and everywhere, really).

This is not the case for San Diego’s bid to land a Major League Soccer side.

The team had already rallied plenty of viral fame when voters hijacked their naming campaign with the hilarious “Footy McFooty Face” nickname.

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And on April 1, they announced that the goofy name had won. It would’ve been way funnier had they not used the end of the video to announce that they’d never name their side SDFMFFFC, but we’ll take it anyway.

Investors want MLS stadium on site of Chargers’ former home

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SAN DIEGO (AP) With the NFL’s Chargers leaving for Los Angeles, a group of private investors unveiled plans Monday to bring an MLS team to San Diego and build a stadium that can be shared with San Diego State.

In addition to the joint-use venue which could seat up to 30,000, the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium site which has housed the Chargers would also be used for a sports and entertainment district, according to the FS Investors group’s plans. The plans also set aside acreage for a larger stadium, in case the NFL decides to return to San Diego.

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“There are a lot of people that were disappointed with that (the Chargers’ move) and understandably so,” said Nick Stone, a partner in the investors group, which would develop the property and own the MLS franchise. “But we think this is a really, really interesting time to look at the opportunity to bring soccer to San Diego. It’s a very logical market for that.

“We can bring what is the world’s most popular sport, and the fastest growing sport in the U.S.,” Stone said. “One door closed but a really great door opened.”

The Chargers announced on Jan. 12 that they would play in the Los Angeles area next season after 56 seasons in San Diego.

Stone’s group, which includes Padres lead investor Peter Seidler and former Qualcomm president Steve Altman, has the exclusive negotiating rights with the MLS. The league is expected to designate expansion cities this fall.

The investor group said it wouldn’t require taxpayer money for its plan, which includes buying the land now occupied by Qualcomm.

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“This is an exciting concept that could welcome major league soccer to San Diego without public subsidy, provide a home for Aztecs football and create a long-awaited river park,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing the final plan.”

After five years, FS Investors said it would donate its half ownership of the stadium to San Diego State. San Diego State’s football team now plays at Qualcomm Stadium, which is also home to college football’s Holiday and Poinsettia bowls.

Report: San Diego making push to become future MLS expansion site

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With the NFL no longer the biggest show in town, San Diego could be bringing another football to the city in the near future.

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According to NBC 7 San Diego, FS Investors founder Mike Stone and former Qualcomm Vice Chairman Steve Altman are prepared to reveal their proposal on Monday that will bring a future MLS franchise to San Diego.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The proposed move includes a stadium plan that will reside where the Chargers’ Qualcomm Stadium currently sits. With the NFL franchise now playing in Los Angeles, the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball are the only remaining professional team in the area, out of the five major sports in the U.S.

NBC 7 is also reporting that a future San Diego team would share its facility with the San Diego State Aztecs football team.

MLS is currently up to 22 teams entering the 2017 season, while Los Angeles FC is also tabbed to enter the league next year. David Beckham’s Miami project is also considered to be the league’s 24th team, and MLS is likely to hold off on further announcements regarding expansion until later in 2017.

If San Diego were to be chosen as an expansion site, the club would become the fourth to call California home in the current state of MLS, joining the San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles Galaxy and LA FC (2018).

In addition to San Diego, several other cities are currently vying to enter MLS in the future, including St. Louis, Cincinnati, Sacramento and Charlotte.