San Diego will be the home for Major League Soccer's 30th team with matches kicking off at Snapdragon Stadium for the 2025 season, league officials announced Thursday in a highly-anticipated news conference at San Diego's newest sporting arena.
"We're now at 29 clubs for this, the 2023 season. As you know there will soon be 30 teams across the United States and across Canada as well, and soon number 30 will be playing right here in San Diego," sports announcer Rob Stone said after playing a sizzle reel that teased a San Diego MLS logo.
The event was attended by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, majority owner British-Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour and Cody Martinez, chairman of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, part owner. Political leaders like Mayor Todd Gloria and local icons like Padres superstar Manny Machado, who was also announced as a part owner of the new San Diego team, were also in attendance.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
"The city has been a target market expansion for us since its earliest days," Garber said. "We simply needed the right ownership group that really believed in this city, that believed in the sport, that believed in our league and we needed the perfect stadium.
"And, all of that and so much more has come together thanks to the hard work, the commitment, the passion of everyone who believed in the idea that a world-class city in a world-class stadium could enjoy and embrace a world-class league."
Mansour — senior treasurer for the United Kingdom's Conservative Party — will back an MLS expansion team with $500 million in partnership with the Sycuan tribe, according to reports. Mansour is the founder and chairman of the London-based investment management firm Man Capital, which owns Right to Dream — a global soccer community of academies, clubs and partners focused on identifying and nurturing talent.
"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," Mansour said.
Garber said the team was built through Mansour's "international business powerhouse."
"When you see them, you'll know that these are truly 'Run silent, run deep' kind of guys," Garber said.
The Sycuan Tribe becomes the first Native American tribe to have an ownership stake in professional soccer in the United States.
"We're proud to have you be a part of our family, to understand what truly local means. To be involved with a community that's been here for 12,000 years. Now, if that's not local, I don't know what is," Garber said.
Black and white scarves were passed out with an MLS logo and the phrase "San Diego 2025" but notably missing from the event was any announcement of the team's name or the team's colors. The team will play in Snapdragon Stadium by 2025, a year before the United States will join Mexico and Canada in hosting the 2026 World Cup, and the name and crest will be announced in the buildup to beginning play.
Soccer fans can reserve their place on the list for season tickets to San Diego's inaugural MLS season by paying $18 at SanDiegoFC.com.
San Diego News
Major international soccer events coming to the venue this year include Mexico vs. Cameroon on June 10 and the semifinal match in the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup on July 12. Welsh club Wrexham AFC and British soccer giant Manchester United will play a friendly at Snapdragon on July 25.
Other founding partners include Brad Termini, co-founder of Zephyr Partners, Tom Vernon, founder of Right to Dream and Dan Dickinson, board member, Right to Dream. Tom Penn, previously president and co-owner of MLS's Los Angeles Football Club, will serve as the club's CEO.
The San Diego Wave, which began play in the National Women's Soccer League in 2022, plays in Snapdragon Stadium and set a league single-game attendance record of 32,000 against Angel City FC last September.
"I think it shows how well we've done, to be honest, the San Diego Wave," said Wave Head Coach Casey Stoney. "I think they've been trying to get an MLS team here for many years. It shows that there's a steep love of soccer here now and that another team can come and share that love."
Meanwhile, in response to MLS expansion rumors, the ownership of one of San Diego's existing professional soccer clubs — San Diego Loyal SC of the USL Championship — put out a defiant statement last week saying the team isn't "going anywhere."
"Our unwavering commitment is to the vision of growing soccer in this city, and we want to make that abundantly clear," said Andrew Vassiliadis, chairman and owner of SD Loyal. "Landon Donovan, the entire San Diego Loyal team and I are dedicated to this mission, and we will continue to work tirelessly to achieve it. Our passion for soccer and for our community will never falter."
Donovan, a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, coached SD Loyal for its first three seasons, 2020-22, then became its executive vice president of soccer operations in December 2022.