NASL Announces Latest Expansion In San Diego
The NASL continues its expansion on the West Coast as the second tier professional league announces its newest club to compete in San Diego. The expansion club will enjoy the backing of an ownership group led by Eden Hazard, Demba Ba and other international soccer stars.
Currently in the midst of its 2017 season, the NASL is available on a weekly basis through its national broadcast partnerships with beIN SPORTS and ESPN.
Related Article: NASL Is Coming to Orange County
NASL Soccer News: Professional soccer will be making its long-awaited return to San Diego County in the Spring of 2018. The North American Soccer League (NASL) announced on Monday that San Diego County will be the league’s newest expansion market.
San Diego NASL is backed by an ownership group led by four global soccer stars: Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sow. The players have partnered with local business executives to bring professional soccer to an area that is home to 3.3 million people and more than 50,000 youth players. Bob Watkins, a longtime San Diegan and successful businessman, will serve as the club’s president.
“It’s an absolute honor to bring professional soccer to San Diego County,” said Watkins, who recently secured the league’s approval of the expansion club. “The international soccer stars driving this effort give us an excellent foundation from which to build. We will be an exciting club to watch – you can count on that. We intend to develop local talent, helping young children realize their dreams of playing professional soccer, and we intend to help San Diego become a soccer capital known around the world.”
With Ba, Hazard, Cabaye and Sow headlining the ownership group, the new NASL club will have a strong connection to the global game. Ba and Sow were both born in France, but represent Senegal at the international level. Ba, who currently plays for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League, has been a standout goal scorer in France, Germany, England and Turkey.
“Success is our goal – with the club, with the community, with everything that we do,” said Ba. “One of our goals is to sign players who have a strong passion for the game, who are competitive and love to win. All my life as a football player, I lived with competition and competition is going to be good for us and for San Diego. I look forward to competing against our fellow California clubs and the rest of the NASL, as well as MLS clubs in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It is going to be up to us to be the best.”
Hazard, who is regarded as one of the world’s most skillful competitors, plays for Premier League side Chelsea FC. The Belgian international star was named Premier League Player of the Season in 2015.
“San Diego is a beautiful place and the love and passion the people have for soccer made this an easy choice for us,” said Hazard. “My friends and I are honored to turn this dream into a reality and we can’t wait to get started and win some games.”
Like Hazard, Cabaye plays professionally in England with Crystal Palace FC. A member of the French national team, Cabaye has also suited up for Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle United. “It’s unbelievable to be part of this project, and I just want to do my best for the club and for San Diego,” said Cabaye.
Sow just finished another season with Turkish giant Fenerbahçe S.K. as he is on loan from Dubai-based side Al Ahli. “My main goal will be to share my knowledge and experience with the club,” said Sow.
“The NASL is thrilled to add San Diego to the league, and we’re just as excited to be doing so with such an accomplished group of professional players and businessmen,” said NASL Interim Commissioner Rishi Sehgal. “We’re confident that the success they have had on the pitch in their careers will contribute to the club’s success – on and off the pitch – in San Diego.”
The club is in the process of scouting locations in North County to construct a privately-financed soccer complex that will include its home stadium. The team will play its games at the University of San Diego until the stadium is complete.
Joining the club’s front office will be Ricardo Campos and Katy Temple. Campos formerly served as technical director for the New York Red Bulls of MLS. Temple is an experienced media personality and communications professional in San Diego.
“My focus will be to create a team that San Diegans are proud to call their own, with players and staff who are hard-working, creative and instinctively smart,” said Campos. “We will put together a staff that focuses on building our players, on and off the field, and creating an environment that strives for continuous personal development.”
“San Diego is home to one of the country’s best youth soccer programs, but very few local players go on to play professional soccer and even fewer reach their dreams of playing internationally,” said Temple. “The ownership group plans to change that by developing players and coaches and turning the region into a soccer capital. The global soccer stars behind San Diego NASL have achieved their boyhood dreams and they want to provide young players in San Diego with the same opportunities.”
“The plans that Demba, Eden and the rest of the ownership group have in store for the development of their club align well with the vision of the NASL because they will apply vast global experience to the local community in San Diego,” said Sehgal. “The NASL celebrates the global game by focusing on players and delivering a high-quality soccer experience to the fans, and this group intends to do just that.”
San Diego NASL is currently developing its name and logo and expects to unveil its branding at an event in the coming months. The club has already rolled out its website, which you can visit here.
As the NASL’s 10th club, San Diego is the latest to join the league’s West Coast expansion movement. The San Francisco Deltas kicked off their inaugural season earlier this year, and a new club in Orange County, which will take the field in the Spring of 2018, was announced last month.