MLS to San Diego? Here’s What Some Local Members of the Soccer Scene Had to Say

MLS to San Diego? Here’s What Some Local Members of the Soccer Scene Had to Say

By now, you’ve likely heard plenty about the possibility of an MLS team starting in San Diego. Whether it be through the noteworthy addition of Landon Donovan as an investor, or the infamous votes for a “Footy McFooty Face” name, there is no lack of local attention for a potential new professional club.

Although the “Soccer City” bid is one of 12 competing for four MLS expansion spots, there is reason to believe that San Diego is currently one of the front-runners. Due to the recent departure of the Chargers in January, and a thriving youth soccer scene, the city appears to be an ideal location for one of the four expansion sites. There are countless fans in the city, who are all soccer crazy, even going as far as using a website like Taruhan Bola to bet on their favorite games.

That said, I began to wonder how people from the San Diego area felt about the possibility of a team. More specifically, I wanted to hear the thoughts from those who are heavily involved with the local soccer culture.

Whether it be from a fan, a professional player or a fellow journalist, I wanted to hear their response to this one question: What would it mean to you for San Diego to get an MLS team?

Paul Arriola — Club Tijuana and U.S. Men’s National Team player

“Growing up I dreamed that we would have a team, you know? For San Diego, especially now that the Chargers are gone, I don’t know if it would necessarily be filling a piece in your heart but I definitely feel like it would be a great atmosphere. Obviously, the rivalry between Tijuana and San Diego would become something very special.

I’m very excited, I was able to talk to Landon [Donovan] a little bit about what’s going on. We’ll see in the future what’s going to happen, but as of right now, I’m pushing for it. If it happens, I’m going to be very excited.”

J. Hector Diaz — Director of Coaching for Chula Vista F.C.

“It will fill a void that enhances the culture of the sport in our community and the development of the elite soccer player.”

Darren Smith — Sports radio host for the Mighty 1090 and co-host of the Unnamed Soccer Podcast

“There’s a couple ways to look at this – the professional side and the personal side and then how they intersect. First the professional angle.

Adding any professional expansion franchise in any sport is a huge deal to a member of the sports media for obvious reasons. More is better. Adding an MLS team is particularly interesting based on industry trends showing soccer’s growing popularity and its popularity in younger and Mexican-American demos. That’s us. Plus, everyone knows San Diego is a soccer town. TV ratings, youth participation and the willingness of thousands of local fans to cross the border to Tijuana prove that. It’s a no-brainer, in my opinion. The enthusiasm on the local sports scene is there and that’s great to see in a post-Chargers San Diego.

Personally, I love the sport and believe MLS has turned a corner in the U.S. It’s hardly perfect but what is? I can’t guarantee I’ll be doing radio whenever it is that San Diego gets an MLS franchise but I guarantee I’ll be a fan of the club.”

David Chamberlain — President of the San Diego chapter of the American Outlaws (U.S. supporters group)

“It would mean that a soccer town has a team that it deserves, and nobody can take that away from us.”

Alex Mancilla — Captain of Pancho Villa’s Army San Diego (Mexico supporters group)

“I’ve been a soccer fan all my life. I like to chant, have a good time and show my passion that I have for the sport. And I know for a fact that there are a lot of people like me here in San Diego. I think people have been waiting for this to happen for a long time. We need an MLS team to bring together all the soccer fans we have here. Pancho Villa’s Army San Diego Battalion supports!”

Francisco Velasco — Sportswriter for the East Village Times

“To me, this would be monumental. I have a great sense of pride of being from San Diego, supporting the Padres with all their flaws, all my life. The Xolos have filled the gap of a professional soccer team in the region, but for a soccer team to actually have San Diego in its name means a great deal for me. It would also allow me to immerse myself into MLS, which never seemed enticing to me before this news.”

Ernesto Espinoza — Club Tijuana youth academy player

“It would be great, since it’s the first pro [soccer] team in San Diego. So many opportunities and I’m looking forward to how it will come out. Can’t wait!”

Frank Zimmerman — Director of Coaching for the Oceanside Breakers

“I think it would be fantastic for San Diego to get an MLS team. There are so many ways the greater San Diego area will benefit, and I am sure my colleagues will outline them.

Without rec soccer and mid-level club opportunities, we would have little soccer in America. I feel this is the group of families and young players we could pull into real fanship, growing the game in so many important ways here in the U.S.

For me, I think the 99% majority of rec and club players in youth soccer not tracking toward playing in college or beyond would have added opportunities to deepen their love for the beautiful game, should MLS expand to San Diego. For the high-end players, I would welcome a zero-cost opportunity which would make the access to the highest levels more fairly distributed to all talented players, especially those without means. An MLS team could move us toward that dream!”

Chris Cashman — Director of Club Frontera (Club Tijuana documentary)

“Considering that there are more people in San Diego who watched the last World Cup on television than anywhere else in the U.S., it makes perfect sense that we would have our own MLS team. Being a proud born-and-raised San Diegan, I believe an MLS team will help bring the community together as did the Xolos for Tijuana.”

Shannon MacMillan — U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer and Executive Director of the Del Mar-Carmel Valley Sharks

“It would mean a tremendous amount to me to have an MLS team in San Diego. I know firsthand how special it is to play professionally in San Diego – which I am proud to call my hometown. San Diego is a hotbed for soccer talent and having an MLS team for the city to get behind would be powerful! The opportunity to have a team locally that our youth players can look up to and watch, play, live and learn from has value that you can’t put a price on. I am behind MLS San Diego 100%!”

Marty Albert — Founder of Gringoxolos (Club Tijuana supporters group)

“It would mean that I would need to work more so I could invest in a season pass. Never enough futbol/soccer in my life! So looking forward to a border battle! It’s a good thing.”

Luis Corrales — Member of the San Diego Gooners (Arsenal supporters group)

“For me, MLS to SD is the next step in growing the game in size and quality in the U.S. And hopefully this puts San Diego on the map as one of the top soccer cities in the U.S.”

Ben Forman — Chairman of the San Diego Spurs (Tottenham supporters group)

“I think that San Diego having an MLS team here would be great for the city, because it would give people another avenue for them to watch the sport. I don’t think it’s the end all be all though, as crossing the border and watching Xolos is a very safe, easy and fun experience. However, I don’t think that Xolos are going to convert any new fans to the sport, so it’s still important to the growth of soccer in San Diego to get MLS here.

Going into a slightly different subject, I think if we do get MLS, [it’s important] that the pricing is done very carefully to not out price any casual fans. I think part of the reason Xolos have been so successful is in part to the affordability of their ticket prices. If season tickets to see San Diego are immediately double or triple the prices in Tijuana, I think we will see a lot of people that are unhappy.”

Nate Abaurrea — Club Tijuana, SoCal Surf and San Diego Sockers play-by-play announcer and writer for Soccer Nation

“The last time top-flight professional outdoor soccer existed in San Diego, Mexican legends Leo Cuellar and Hugo Sanchez suited up for the San Diego Sockers in the old NASL. They were household names to the sports fans of San Diego. Soccer has long been integral to this city’s sporting culture, from the youth ranks to the collegiate game, and of course the arena-based euphoria the Sockers have given the community over the last few decades.

With SoCal Surf, SD Zest, and Albion Pros already in action in the PDL and NPSL respectively, an MLS franchise coming to San Diego would do wonders for the incredible soccer culture that already exists at all levels of the game in America’s Finest City.”

Eren Yar — Creator of LoCal Soccer

“It would mean rooting against the Galaxy for the first time in my life! What a strange feeling that would be. The pride I would feel for our city would quickly overwhelm the momentary guilt. On top of that it would make me more hopeful that we would truly become a Soccer City and put public futsal/indoor courts in lots of parks like I saw in England.

When I was there, I played pickup games every Friday with a swarm of middle schoolers from a myriad of countries. It was so fun. I think an MLS team here would help inspire kids to play more on the streets and meet their neighbors, breaking down barriers. Soccer is common ground. I can’t wait!”

Ivan Orozco — U.S. Media Communications Manager for Club Tijuana

“Having an MLS franchise in San Diego would mean more opportunities for me to engage in different projects. It would give me a chance to see what I could contribute and see if I could become part of such an entity, if it was appealing enough and it matched with something I would like to jump into. It would also give me an opportunity to be around more colleagues in the business, coming to visit during the season. New people would be met, new connections and old ones could be rekindled.

A soccer stadium in San Diego would mean more international competitions coming to town. That equals more chances to work on those possible projects. That’s what it would mean to me to have an MLS team in San Diego: More opportunities to work on more projects.”

Marc Serber — San Diego Sockers and Orange County SC play-by-play announcer

“For me, San Diego deserves an MLS team not just because it’s a hot-bed with a deep history, but because of everything that it has done for the game at the grassroots and youth level. The youth clubs have always been some of the best in the nation, the Nomads made it to the U17/18 U.S. Development Academy semi-finals last season and the San Diego Surf Cup remains one of the most prestigious youth tournaments in the country year after year. On top of that, teams from the former San Diego Flash to the NC Battalion, Albion Pros, Zest and Surf are giving players a path from their clubs to the pros via the NPSL.

This is a great place for players to continue their career trajectory. San Diego’s rich history and track record for player production deserves to be rewarded with the ultimate prize of a team at the top level. This is because so many people in the city are dedicated to preparing their very own to reach such heights on a daily basis backed by a community that will support them at every step along the way.”

Cem Tont — Head Coach of the PDL’s San Diego Zest

“It would put San Diego in the soccer map. Torment would be removed, dead would become alive. Blind would become to see.”

Steve Yorke — Director of Coaching for FC Heat and Escondido Soccer Club

“If you watch BPL games on the TV at the weekend and you get camera shots of the crowd, on every single one you see the face of a young fan, mesmerized by the action and totally in-tune with what is happening on the field. After all this is their team too, their players, their city, their passion.

Having an MLS team in San Diego opens many doors for these fans. It would be their team to follow in their city. Needless to say, they would want to emulate their heroes, have their pictures on their bedroom walls and buy shirts with their names on. MLS in San Diego is a healthy outlet for these young fans that would keep them off the streets and away from their phones for at least one or two evenings a week, I vote yes!”

Dike Anyiwo — soccerloco and SoccerNation

“For me, MLS expanding into San Diego would be a godsend. I don’t think anyone who has a true appreciation of the game of soccer would say that the standard of competition in the league is at the pinnacle of the world, but for a country with unlimited potential for growth, the building of MLS and all professional soccer in America should be looked upon as a challenge worth taking on.

Soccer truly is the world’s game and the proposal from the MLS expansion group here in San Diego will open the door for America’s Finest City to become relevant on the world stage in a way it has never been before. I honestly can’t wait for a club to grow out of the community of San Diego that is worthy of this great city.”

Jonathan Rico Aviles — Author of The Year in Mexican Soccer and writer for ProstAmerika

“Soccer was always going to be a huge part of my life. As a Mexican-American in San Diego, it was inevitable. Like many other Mexican-heritage families, my family held deep ties to Mexican soccer. I grew up watching all of Mexico’s clubs on TV every weekend. Back in the early and mid-nineties, broadcasts of Mexican soccer were not so easy to come by as they are today, but living in San Diego, a bordertown, meant I had access to Mexican channels in the open air TV. I never missed a game.

Also inevitable was me playing youth soccer in San Diego. Soccer was the most important thing. Soccer was what motivated me to get good grades in school in order to be able to play on the team. Soccer was/is a big part of my life. The only thing missing from my childhood was a local team to go support every weekend. The team I grew up loving was 2,000 miles away in Mexico City. I never got to experience the roar of the crowd as a child, I never got to learn any chants and sing them in unison with other fans.

A professional soccer team in San Diego, my hometown, would complete the picture. It would guarantee that my children never grow up with the void that I grew up with.”

Author’s note: Some quotes have been edited for clarity.

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