May 18 – The MLS has awarded it 30th franchise to San Diego in California, and an investment group led by Egyptian Mohamed Mansour and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.
The franchise has been bought for $500 million. The last record for franchise sale was the $325 million paid by Charlotte in 2019.
The as yet unnamed San Diego team will play at the 35,000-capacity Snapdragon Stadium in San Francisco, starting with the 2025 season. The Snapdragon, owned by San Diego State University, is rapidly becoming one of the venues of choice for elite football.
It will host a semi-final of Concacaf’s Gold Cup in early July this year, and is the home of San Diego Wave who were an expansion team in the NWSL in 2022 and have already set the NWSL attendance record with a sell-out 32,000 crowd for the derby match against Angels FC. It will also host the Wrexham vs Manchester United friendly in July. Earlier this year the stadium hosted a friendly between Mexico and Cameroon.
“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. Mohamed Mansour and theSycuan Tribe have an incredible vision for building a club that will inspire and unite soccer fans throughout the city and region,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber.
Mansour is the founder and chairman of the London-based investment management firm Man Capital, which owns Right to Dream (RTD), a group of youth academies, clubs and partners. The RTD development model will be at the centre of the San Diego club philosophy and business rationale, providing a platform for elite player development and ultimately player sales.
“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,” said Mansour.
It is a model that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Brentford in the English Premier League would be an example of getting right, Southampton, in the same league and once famed for its academy would be an example of new owners getting it horribly wrong. The advantage that the MLS has for this kind of player-led business model is that the league does not have relegation.
But being rooted deeply in the community will be key for Mansour’s team. That authenticity and local link will be provided by the Sycuan Tribe.
Tribal chairman Cody Martinez said: “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. Sycuan continues to demonstrate its strong commitment to the San Diego region and our MLS team will provide us with a great opportunity to bring together many different segments of the community through their passion for the game.”
Tom Penn will be San Diego’s CEO. Penn has had a sports career covering NBA teams as well as in soccer where he was president and co-owner of LAFC. In 2011 he founded the Sports Leadership Institute is a company that organises private leadership summits for global sports owners, pro sports executives, and pro athletes.
“We scouted the globe for the right opportunity with soccer, and San Diego ticked all the boxes,” said Mansour. “Today feels to me in some ways like 1,000 birthdays have come together.”
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