Soccer

2023 will be the final season for San Diego Loyal Soccer Club

USL Championship to transition franchise rights after this year

San Diego Loyal SC

In 2019, San Diego Loyal SC became a franchise. Sadly, 2023 will be its final year of existence.

USL Championship announced on Thursday they are transitioning the franchise rights, meaning the club will no longer have a presence in America's Finest City. The league's reasoning for this is something we've heard all too many times: it's about the stadium deal.

“Having a modern, commercially viable stadium solution is vital to our clubs’ long-term success and is a pillar of the USL’s growth strategy,” said USL Deputy CEO Justin Papadakis. “Despite collectively pursuing multiple potential options with SD Loyal’s leadership in the San Diego area, an appropriate stadium solution has not materialized.”

The Loyal have played all their home matches at USD's Torero Stadium, a fine facility but one that only holds 6,100 fans. Despite the smaller facility, the Loyal have ranked in the top half of the USL Championship in attendance the past three years. The Loyal broke the news in a heartfelt post on social media.

"Four years ago, Landon Donovan, myself and our group of investors started on a journey to bring professional soccer back to San Diego," said San Diego Loyal SC chairman Andrew Vassiliadis, who was obviously emotional sitting in the stands at Torero Stadium, adding later, "Landon has always said to me, 'How you do anything is how you do everything,' and that's why I thought it was important that you hear from me today — not from a statement, not from a press release, but from me speaking to you."

Vassiliadis says the Loyal tried to find a permanent stadium solution up and down San Diego County but nothing materialized.

"From Oceanside down to the border, we've looked at everything and left no stone unturned," said Vassiliadis, who, no surprise, recorded the statement while wearing a Loyal hat and jersey. "Unfortunately, after looking at all of that, I've come to the conclusion that this will be the last season for San Diego Loyal."

The impending arrival of a Major League Soccer franchise in 2025 is also a factor in this development, and it's truly unfortunate. This franchise has lived up to its mantra of being "loyal to the soil" with its active community involvement.

During the pandemic in 2020 they held fundraisers for Rady Children's Hospital to make sure kids dealing with serious medical issues other than COVID kept receiving the care they needed. They were active with local military organizations to support enlisted servicemembers and veterans.

And, perhaps most importantly, they stood up for equality. The Loyal sacrificed a playoff spot two years ago when their players walked off the pitch in protest of homophobic and racist actions from opponents. Those moments forced policy changes within USL Championship to promote inclusion and education.

"I believe, together, in these last four years, we have set a new standard of what it means to be a professional soccer team in this city and be a reflection of our community, and I'm proud of that," Vassiliadis said.

The Loyal do have an opportunity to go out on top. With 10 matches left they are squarely in the playoff hunt so Vassiliadis has a humble request to make of the San Diego sports fan base.

"I have an ask: As we head into this last two months of the season, I ask that you continue to fight with the club," Vassiliadis said. "I ask that you come celebrate and not mourn what we have done over the last four years. I ask that you come join us at Torero for our final four home games and represent your community — come together as friends and family, and cheer us on as we push once again to make it the playoffs. And who knows what happens after that? Like I said: This is really difficult, and from the bottom of my heart, I just want to thank everybody for the way you've represented the club and worn our crest," Vassiliadis said.

"I'm forever grateful," Vassiliadis said, tearing up and his voice breaking, "and I'll be forever loyal to our community. Thank you."

The Loyal's next home match is on Sept. 3 vs. Birmingham Legion FC. For tickets, click here.

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