San Diego: Sun, Surf … and Soccer?

In January 2017, Chargers owner Dean Spanos announced that the team would be heading up the I-5 to nearby Los Angeles. Fans were outraged and many questioned if San Diego was a city capable of harboring a professional sports team of any kind. The Clippers were long gone and the Chargers had just packed their bags. To some it seemed like only a matter of time before the Padres, with attendance ranking 10th out of 15 in the National League, would go out for cigarettes and milk. 

In 2022, it has become clear that this was not the case. Although the Chargers are still residing in Los Angeles, the Padres attendance has soared, indicative of the intense passion San Diegans have for professional sports. 

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber has taken notice of this influx of athletic passion to the sunny Southern California metropolis. As the MLS continues to work toward adding a 30th club, San Diego and Las Vegas have emerged as the front runners for a team that looks to be finalized sometime in the first half of 2023. 

“I’m a big believer in San Diego,” Garber told Jonathan Sigal in an article for MLS, “I think there’s a view that San Diego, it’s too nice there and people are out surfing and hanging out at the beach and I just don’t buy it. I think San Diego’s a great sports market, it’s a gateway city.” 

The 619 is currently home to two soccer teams, one professional and one semi-pro: the San Diego Loyal and the San Diego Wave. According to NBC San Diego, the Wave, a member of the National Women’s Soccer League, set two attendance records in three weeks. Both the Wave and the Loyal have been heavily supported by die hard San Diegan soccer fanatics. 

Second-year accounting major Jacob Smith said San Diego natives love soccer and the idea of a professional team in the area excites him. 

“It’s very exciting to hear that an MLS team may make San Diego their home,” he said, “San Diego sports fans love soccer and would certainly embrace a new professional sports team to root for!”

Newly constructed Snapdragon Stadium, home to the SDSU Aztecs and the San Diego Wave, is the prospective home of a San Diego expansion team, as the stadium was built with specific modifications and features in order to accommodate something of this sort. The stadiums seating is capable of being expanded from 35,000 seats to 40,000. 

In terms of personnel, it is not yet known who would play on a San Diego club, as the team would need to be finalized beforehand. However, newly established St. Louis FC provides a good look into how this process would work for San Diego. 

An expansion draft will be held in which expansion teams are allotted five picks from the pool of players eligible for the draft. Eligible players are determined by each individual club, as each team is able to choose to protect 12 players on their roster from selection in the draft. Five clubs are exempt from St. Louis’s 2022 expansion draft, due to Charlotte FC selecting players from their roster in 2021. 

Although expansion teams are seldom able to select flashy players or superstars in the expansion draft, there are examples of teams selecting players that produce for their new franchises for years to come, as well as examples of expansion teams that enjoy immediate success. As a fellow expansion team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL finished as Stanley Cup runner up in their first season in the league, afterall. 

The coming months will prove vital in determining which city will be granted the opportunity to host the next MLS expansion team. Soon enough, Garber will make his decision, leaving one city rejoicing, and one hung out to dry. 

Written By: Cade Cavin