The F-S Investors group looking to bring Major League Soccer to San Diego as part of a massive Mission Valley redevelopment plan added another high-profile member to the team this week.
Landon Donovan, who has scored more goals than anyone in the history of the United States Men's National Team, is now part of the group. He’ll be playing a few different roles, not the least of which is being the most recognizable face of the proposal.
“He’s great in front of the media. He’s great with fans,” said FS Investors partner Nick Stone, a key member of the group trying to bring MLS to San Diego in a new stadium on the land where Qualcomm Stadium currently sits.
Donovan was the main attraction at an MLS kickoff party on Friday night in San Diego, an event that had to be moved twice to find a venue that could accommodate the larger-than-expected attendance.
“He spent hours signing autograph after autograph,” said Stone. “He’s an asset for us and I’m incredibly proud to have him as a part of the team.”
But Donovan will not just be shilling for the redevelopment plan. Now retired and living full-time in San Diego, Landon jumped on board the FS Investors proposal to bring MLS to America’s Finest City because he believes in a bigger cause.
“From Day 1 we can start building our identity. We can start building a youth academy which will be my primary focus,” said Donovan.
Nearly every Major League Soccer club runs a youth academy with boys and girls teams participating in six different age groups:
According to Major League Soccer, in 2017-2018 the Development Academies will feature 135 clubs (a single club encompasses all the teams from all the age groups) with more than 13,000 players participating in 9,500 matches.
The new Minnesota and Atlanta franchises already have Development Academies in place and participating in matches. As a whole, these programs are starting to turn out really good players.
December's NCAA Championship game between Stanford and Wake Forest featured a dozen players from MLS academies.
That kind of youth development is part of what San Diego will get if Major League Soccer comes to town, with arguably the most decorated American soccer player of all-time leading the way.
“That is what I love about the guy,” said Stone. “He’s here in part because he loves the sport and mostly because he loves the kids.”
Donovan trained at a soccer academy in Florida before the MLS Development Academies were a thing. Through his MLS career in Los Angeles he worked with the Galaxy development academy (which Chula Vista native and current Tijuana Xolos forward Paul Arriola was at one point a member of).
Now a father himself, Donovan wants the next chapter of his soccer career to be helping the youth of San Diego.
“Not all of them are going to become professionals,” said Donovan, “but they can become a part of this city. They can become a part of this team in a real way and we can help develop them on the field and off the field so they can give to this community and make this community better.”
Donovan is careful to say they’re not putting the cart before the horse and knows all of this can’t happen unless San Diego does, in fact, get an MLS expansion franchise. But he says as long as the stadium proposal is approved he’s confident that America’s Finest City will receive a Major League Soccer club … and all the developmental opportunities that come with it.