#SDLOYAL is Following The Successful Path of Warren Smith’s Sacramento Republic
No one knows what will happen in the future, but if the experiences of the past are useful, San Diego Loyals have a clear path that includes a stadium with possibly a new 12-acre regional public park with art, music, and year-round sporting events for all ages.
Warren Smith knows the soccer business. Co-founding the USL Championship San Diego Loyal soccer club in June was Smith’s big step into professional soccer in Southern California. Smith’s desire, to build on and even improve upon the success he created in Northern California with the USL Championship club Sacramento Republic FC is clearly on track. San Diego Loyal sold out its first game, just as Sacramento Republic FC. Hopefully, SD Loyal will win the USL Pro championship, and lift the trophy as did Sacramento in 2014, the club’s inaugural season.
San Diego Loyal is now sitting in first place of the USL Championship Group B standing after their 5 games of their 2020 season, and their performance can be categorized as impressive while not surprising.
Tonight, SD Loyal will take on Smith’s former squad, the Sacramento Republic in San Diego and this will be a match not to miss.
Another challenge on the horizon is building a soccer-specific stadium in San Diego, but that is a few years down the road.
Take into consideration all the individuals working to make SD Loyal a success — whether it be chairman Andrew Vassiliadis, head coach and US Men’s National Team legend Landon Donovan, Olympian and US Women’s National Team star Shannon MacMillan and, last but not least, the club’s president Smith.
Smith, who has ambitious plans for the USL Championship expansion team in America’s finest city was kind enough to share his insights with SoccerToday as to where the team is and where he wants it to go.
SoccerToday Interview with San Diego Loyal’s Warren Smith
SoccerToday: What similarities do you see between this SD Loyal Team and your Sacramento Republic team that won it all in 2014?
Warren Smith: Every market and every team is different.
One big similarity is that we just have a bunch of really good human beings on our team. Additionally, SD Loyal’s fans and our supporters’ groups have helped us electrify our team. These boys really respond to the crowd.
A big difference is we had a very experienced coach in Sacramento. While this is Landon’s first coaching experience, he has accomplished great things. Most notably, the culture which he has created within the team.
It’s top-notch and he’s on the right track for success.
The league is completely different than it was just a few years ago, and it is much more competitive today than it was in 2014. We have a tougher road ahead, but all the opportunities in the world to do something meaningful.
SoccerToday: How do you think SD Loyal and its fans have responded this season so far in this current state of affairs with the Coronavirus?
Warren Smith: Given COVID, I’m in awe of the community and the way they’ve responded.
We started this club with a timeline to launch 5 months before our first kick. In Sacramento, we had a year and a half. While we are behind in many areas, I believe we are also ahead in others.
The Locals are off to a great start and the relationship with them and the brand is phenomenal.
We have a lot of work to do to open SD Loyal to non-soccer fans, but we’re doing it. As long as we keep doing what we are doing, we will see great success.
SoccerToday: Have the fans embraced SD Loyal in the way you expected them to and does it remind you of the Sacramento fans’ reaction back in 2014?
Warren Smith: It’s different. Sacramento had already learned it had a voice when they tried to keep their NBA Kings in town. It was easier — because of this effort — to engage with the non-soccer fans. Sacramento sports fans recognized that they are participants in the success of the team and what that means to the community.
Aside from that, yes, we have seen very similar success and we look forward to growing upon that.
SoccerToday: Based on the example that those who supported SoccerCity endured back in 2017-2018, how optimistic are you regarding your new plan for the Pechanga Arena site?
Warren Smith: We don’t look backward, we only look forward.
Given the market and how many people watch this sport, I truly believe that San Diego is the capital of soccer in North America.
When you consider Tijuana, those numbers are enhanced. We have a plan, and if we continue to execute our plan, we will be massively successful.
In regards to the Sports Arena site, we couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of this RFP process and asked to be on the Midway Sports & Entertainment District (MSED) team. We believe that they provided the best solution for the city’s request for proposals, and for the redevelopment of the Midway area. This is just awesome for us. We are very optimistic and hopefully, the city sees it the same way.
SoccerToday: Any other words you would like to share with the fans on how they can make this plan and the team be successful?
Warren Smith: Engage.
This is San Diego’s team and it’s up to the people of San Diego to create what it wants to create.
As the stewards of the club, it’s our job to listen, react, and deliver.
We ask the people of San Diego, and beyond, if you don’t know soccer, come to a match — when we can play again. Our goal is to create kickass events that are fun and engaging. Part party, party family gathering, part soccer match.
Read: Help San Diego Loyal by Supporting a Sports-Themed Midway Entertainment District written by Warren Smith.
Once people come out to a game, I’m confident most will fall in love with this team.