By Brianna Bartello & Chris Riewald
The recent exodus of the San Diego Chargers has left a pigskin-sized hole in San Diego. Despite being one of the 10 largest cities in America, San Diego’s lone “Big 4” (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL) sports team is the Padres of the MLB. However, only few know of the new and exciting plan to rebuild Qualcomm Stadium. Qualcomm Stadium, the previous home of the Chargers, will be transformed into a soccer stadium for a new Major League Soccer team. This new stadium is said to be displaying positive feedback for many soccer fans who are not willing to drive four to five hours to see a professional MLS soccer game.
Rocky Long, the head coach of SDSU, the home of the Aztecs, received a contract extension stating that after five years, SDSU will be given half ownership of the stadium. San Diego State’s football team currently plays at Qualcomm Stadium and season tickets have already been sold out to huge soccer fans all over the city.
“This is an exciting concept that could welcome Major League Soccer to San Diego without public subsidy,” the Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, discussed in a statement. “Provide a home for Aztecs football and create a long-awaited river park.”
An interview with Sean Williams, current athlete on the Point Loma Nazarene soccer team, revealed his thoughts on this large, growing soccer community, “San Diego is one of the biggest markets for Youth Soccer and college soccer for the United States and this will help grow the soccer teams even more.”
With that being said, this means that San Diego is already an attractive area for aspiring soccer athletes. Williams also added, “Having a professional team would convince more soccer fans and players to come to San Diego, which could help bring more active soccer players to come to universities in San Diego.”
With an already huge, growing atmosphere of soccer fans, Don Garber, MLS commissioner, explained in a recent statement how San Diego’s close proximity to Mexico will help this expanding soccer community, “[MLS] has always been intrigued by a closer proximity and a closer relationship with Mexico,” Garber states. “We think we could have an unbelievable rivalry with that team. That connection to Tijuana is something that we are excited about.” Soccer coming to San Diego could attract more tourists and help the city rise economically.
The void left by the Chargers alerts us to another matter: the absence of a PLNU football team. Athletic Director Ethan Hamilton talked about various conflicts blocking the potential for a PLNU football team in the near future, namely the lack of facilities and space for practices and games, the necessary funding, and a Title IX rule requiring the student-athlete ratio of boys and girls to reflect the ratio of boys and girls in the student body. PLNU is nearly two-thirds female. As a result, the ratio of female student-athletes to male student-athletes must be as close as possible to that two-thirds ratio. Adding a football team of 60 or so players would require adding even more women’s sports (to add up to nearly 120 new female student-athletes). The difficulty of funding these new sports as well as logistical concerns over housing and facilities makes clear the difficulty of adding a football team at PLNU.
The Chargers had been a staple in San Diego since 1961. Now that they’re gone, both PLNU students and San Diegans alike will have to cheer for their NFL team from afar. However, San Diego sports will march on with the addition of an MLS team that will take the Chargers’ place in Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers will be missed by all, but change is always exciting.