Landon Donovan and Warren Smith Build a Dominant USL Championship Team in San Diego
From Dream to Reality – Landon Donovan and Warren Smith Build A Pro Soccer Club in San Diego
It is big news. San Diego now has a USL Championship team.
America’s favorite soccer superstar Landon Donovan has teamed up with Warren Smith — cofounder of the Sacramento Republic — to bring a USL Championship team to San Diego.
Launching in 2020 or 2021 — a decision which will be made in the next 45 days — the new San Diego USL Championship team will change soccer in America’s finest city forever.
After the failed effort to bring an MLS team to San Diego, U.S. Men’s National Team legend Landon Donovan, who had proudly led that charge, took a step back to ponder what was it about the project that excited him most.
The answer? While the goal of SoccerCity was to launch an MLS franchise in San Diego, what excited the four-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year the most was the combination of professional soccer, not any specific level of soccer, and San Diego.
“This checks off every box of everything I wanted to do, I have always wanted to run a team, and to bring soccer to San Diego.”Landon Donovan
As the Executive Vice President for Soccer Operations for the new USL Championship team coming to America’s Finest City, Donavan is responsible for everything that happens on the field, from managing player identification and acquisition to oversee on-field performance and hiring the coach.
“It is almost too good to be true,” said Donovan. “I am very grateful. I feel that I am the one winning here.”
“It is a great responsibility — and, I am going to run with this.”Landon Donovan
Donovan also acknowledged he might coach the USL team, but that it was too early to make any commitments.
San Diego’s USL team will play at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium — a 6,000-seat venue just north of the downtown city area. The team, which will be named by the fans, will naturally have an I5 rivalry with Orange County SC and LA Galaxy II. “We are also looking at games with the Xolos and LAFC,” said Donovan. “Those are relationships we want to build immediately.”
Are San Diego fans ready for a USL team?
“Absolutely. The fans are more than ready for this, probably have been ready for this for decades and the beauty of this is that the deal is done,” said Donovan. “There is no political process and no votes required.”
The USL is the largest professional soccer league in North America. “We are delighted to bring USL Championship soccer to San Diego,” said USL CEOAlec Papadakis. “It is a proud community with a rich soccer history.”
Is Donovan looking at the San Diego USL Championship team as a pathway to an MLS franchise?
“No, the focus is doing something for soccer that is great. I am not caught up in the destination. I am not looking at this as stepping stone for an MLS team,” said Donovan.
“I just want it to be the best USL Championship team there is in America.”
The team will play 34 games and all league matches will be broadcast on ESPN+ and ESPN3.
Depending upon when this new USL team will kick off, a “listening campaign” will start, engaging San Diegans who Donovan says will have a huge role in the team.
Reminiscent of the highly successful naming campaign for the Los Angeles Football Club, commonly referred to as LAFC, the new San Diego USL Championship team wants to let people be part of the process.
“If I own one share of Starbucks, I am going to go to Starbucks every time I go for coffee — if someone makes me feel a part of Starbucks, I am going to buy Starbucks,” said Donovan. “We want people to feel real ownership of their team.”
While the USL team, which officially was announced June 19, 2019, will share a home at University San Diego (USD), there is no formal relationship anticipated with the USD collegiate teams. However, Donovan looks forward to working with Brian Quinn, head coach of the University of San Diego Men’s Soccer Team. As a player, Quinn, was an eight-time champion with the San Diego Sockers, the city’s indoor soccer team.
“In addition to the USD Men’s side having players on our team, we are also interested in people who can be part of our front office and or intern with us,” said Donovan.
Donovan has been a trendsetting on-again-off-again retired pro, opting to join the San Diego Sockers for a ten game stint for $250,000 last season. Asked if he will suit up for the Sockers in the upcoming season, Donovan said, “That would be great but it all depends upon when we launch the USL team.”
Tens of millions of dollars are being invested in this San Diego team. “The USL franchise fee is $10 Million — that is the starting point and that is without players or staff,” said Donovan. “So it is a significant investment in San Diego soccer.”
Soccer is in Donovan’s blood and he passionately wants to grow the game in America. Authentically connecting fans to the beautiful game and building a meaningful soccer culture in San Diego has been one of Donovan’s goals for years.
Donovan, who has played in the MLS, the Bundesliga, the Premier League, and Liga MX had received many offers from professional soccer clubs all across the country but never thought it was worth it to move his family away from San Diego. Today, the man who represented the Red, White and Blue in 157 appearances on our U.S. Soccer National Men’s team is thrilled to be able to stay in his not-so-new hometown and oversee the San Diego USL Championship team.
Donovan’s commitment to improving the game for youth players and sharing the joy of soccer with San Diegans has never wavered, even through the endless hassles of SoccerCity.
The evolution of soccer in America is becoming more visible than ever before. When America’s best former national team star kicks off a pro team with the clear vision of bringing the game to the public, everyone benefits.
This is a time to be excited. Congratulations Donovan, Smith and the City of San Diego. #SanDiego #USLSD