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San Diego’s MLS Expansion bid dealt major blow after losing stadium vote


San Diego voters dealt a major blow Tuesday to the possibility of MLS expansion as Landon Donovan and the SoccerCity team saw Measure E set to be defeated with the majority of the votes being counted.

Two measures on the ballot centered on who would redevelop the Mission Valley site. Measure G is backed by San Diego State University and looks to use the site to expand the campus. If passed, Measure E would allow SoccerCity to use the site to build a stadium for a possible MLS franchise.

To pass the measures would have to receive at least 50 percent of the vote. As of Wednesday, morning with 72 percent of precincts reporting, Measure G leads with 55 percent of the vote while Measure E is polling at just 29 percent.

“It was a rough night, but in the end it was clear that it was more about politics and other factors than soccer,” Landon Donovan told “Unfortunately that’s what this town is known for, making things not happen, and we saw that up close.”

The vote in San Diego was one of two MLS-related initiatives that voters considered regarding to expansion. In Miami, David Beckham and his ownership group took a positive step toward building a stadium with an initiative that received support by Miami voters.

SoccerCity’s plan includes a proposed 23,000 seat stadium that could be used by the SDSU football stadium. The Measure G plan includes a 35,000 seat football stadium and unlike Measure E includes expansion of the SDSU campus. Another big difference in the two projects was that SoccerCity’s plan called for privately-funded construction, while Measure E’s plans for a stadium and campus expansion will require public funding.

The loss on Tuesday makes it unlikely for the MLS to expand to San Diego in the near future. However, SDSU athletic director John David Wicker mentioned the possibility that the school’s football stadium could accommodate an MLS team and that the school would work with the league to possibly partner with an ownership group to bring a team to San Diego.

That invitation is unlikely to be accepted, with MLS officials having made it clear that SoccerCity was San Diego’s best, and really only hope for MLS expansion.


  1. “unlike Measure E includes expansion of the SDSU campus”

    incorrect. it absolutely included expansion of the SDSU campus. not only student AND teach housing, but also a Research & Technology center.

    this whole thing was incredibly frustrating. two developers, H.G. Fenton Company and Sudberry Properties, were actually the ones truly behind G. not SDSU. their name was used and promises were made to them which is why they went with it. as soon as that happened, E had no hope. impossible to complete with the SDSU name.

    which is hilarious because San Diego is, for CA coastal standards, relatively red (Prop 6 is a great example). And yet, all these right-leaning alums choose the plan with tax-payer funded solution instead of the privately financed stadium.

    in the end, these two should have never split up to begin with. because G doesn’t even guarantee a stadium. there are many hurdles left for G because it isn’t private. it’ll be years before anything is agreed upon, let alone built. meanwhile SDSU will play at San Diego’s version of RFK and the City will continue to pay millions to maintain a s-hole.

    • and, i think what did it in was going by ‘Soccer City’. ok, maybe that’s pushing it. but look, while SD is a great soccer market, there are MANY MORE older people who balk at the name ‘Soccer City’. i heard this repeatedly. “well i’m not voting for a SOCCER city!”

  2. It’s a little more complicated than this article makes it. First there was an effort for the two sides to work together but that fell apart. The stadium proposed under the San Diego State plan has nebulous funding. The University says it can get alumni donations, naming rights, etc., but some public financing would be required. Since it would be a state college facility, that means it will require state funding out of money set aside for all the state colleges and universities (in California there is a two tier system–universities like UCLA and UC Berkeley, and what were originally state colleges like San Diego State, Long Beach State, etc. Over time some of the state colleges have morphed into universities, but they still fall under the state college system with a separate board and separate funding). My fear is that securing the funding will be difficult and the facility will never be built. However, if it is built, to be at all financially viable, they will need another tenant, such as an MLS team,. It would then be in the university’s best interest to enter into an agreement with a group that pursues an MLS franchise. Personally, I think the 20,000+ stadiums favored by MLS are too small and the proposed 35 to 40 k stadium would be good for both the university football team and MLS. One thing this means for sure is a lot more uncertainty about the future as to what, if anything, gets built.

    • Good stuff Gary Page. With regard to size, I have seen the suggestion of 35-40k seaters before on this site, but it’s surprising how rare such stadiums really are. Basically, if you look at the stadium infrastructure in the US (there is a good wikipedia list of soccer stadiums in the US if you want), there are arena’s and SSS’s that go up to about 25K, and afterwards they are mostly 50k+. Very little in that size range, and mostly they are very old and mostly disused (few if any new builds, outside of baseball stadiums).
      A friend of mine who has experience in development mentioned that there was a reason for this involving design and efficiencies of scale. Specifically, most of the SSS’s in the US effectively consist of four sets of stands, enveloped by a surrounding concourse. These are very appealing places for spectators, but have a natural limit of economic efficiency and are unsuitable for most things besides soccer. So the “next step up” is to build a modern, fully enclosed “bowl” structure (such as an NFL stadium), which is much more expensive, but which can accomodate many other activites (multiple sports, rock concerts, etc…). But it doesn’t make sense to make that kind of expenditure at 40k seats, when the incremental cost to get up to 55k+ isn’t much more.
      So based on this (if it’s accurate), I don’t suspect it’s likely that we will actually see the “mid-tier” sized stadium proliferate in the way we sometimes casually assume. More likely, MLS teams will be wondering when they are ready to “make the jump” from having full houses in a small SSS, to trying to fill an NFL stadium like Atlanta or Seattle.

      • which is why E was perfect. build a smaller stadium for MLS and SDSU (they avg. 39K) while having 12 acres set aside for a bigger, NFL-type, stadium.

    • I found the reporting on Measure E incredibly lacking from the soccer world. it was ALWAYS relying on vague interviews with generalizations. i didn’t see any deep-dive journalism from any well-known soccer publication in the US. incredibly disappointed at the lack of investigation. radio programs relied on call-in information. i don’t think that would have changed the outcome, the SDSU is too strong, but my God. people don’t even realize the main compliant against E is it’s a land-grab for FSI even though G is literally the same thing but for H.G. Fenton Company and Sudberry Properties. Miami’s situation got a lot more deep dive articles…which isn’t THAT shocking given they have an expansion team awarded already. but still, I thought Measure E was largely under-reported from the US-soccer world in terms of a deep dive.

  3. The minimal litmus test for entry of ANY sports team into any city and league really does need to be- can you afford a stadium / to house your team. If you need public money to subsidize your team- you can not afford it and the franchise will likely flounder anyhow. It’s not what tax dollars are for by any stretch.

    • No, the US has gone nuts on this. SD has an unoccupied NFL quality football stadium that is good enough for the WNT to play friendlies there. MLS pushes this idea that you need a self financed SSS but then some of the best attended teams in the league play in NFL stadia, and NYC survives renting at Yankee Stadium. In reality, a lot of the lowest budget and least competitive teams have a SSS.

    • agreed and the tax funded proposition (NCAA Football) passed while the privately funded option (MLS Soccer) failed. not a good plan for the tax payers nor a good signal to send to future professional team/stadium owners..

    • There is no dominant “right size” for an MLS team’s stadium. Depends on the market and the available siting. What MLS is clearly trying to avoid is the MLS 1.0 situation, of having teams playing in old cavernous stadiums, with large swaths of empty seats easily visible on broadcasts (think KC at Arrowhead or LAG at the Rose Bowl…. or any Revs game now). This feeds the perception of a failing and unpopular product. Turns off potential new fans. By contrast, the perception of a vibrant and exciting fan experience is an important lesson they learned from English soccer (and I would argue the NBA, who went from fringe sport to A-list during the TV era). There is a reason beyond the quality of the soccer why ESPN shows so many Timbers, Sounders, and Atlanta games on national broadcasts. Big is nice, but crowded and loud is always good.

      • Sorry but that is actually getting into what I see as MLS 2.0 vs 3.0 which is fan atmosphere. They let NER continue to exist as is and that is prototype cavernous football stadium without a big crowd. One reason? Gillette is free. You’ve had some of the NFL team owners come in and get MLS teams and what it really gets at is terms of the deal — or free tenancy — as opposed to aesthetics.

      • Re MLS 3.0, what I mean is we have gone from 1.0 (little atmosphere) to 2.0 (isolated SGs, teams like Houston) to 3.0, Portland etc. I think a smart team can get 2.0 by atmosphere even in an NFL stadium. Seattle is the epitome of fan participation and that’s a big football cavern. Distinct from the stadium in which it takes place. Plenty of SSSs where fans sit on their hands = the ones where attendance sucks.

      • Unless I’m missing something, I don’t see that we are saying anything different here. Smart teams (and the league) know that atmosphere comes before size. Well-run clubs are able to replicate this at larger scales (provided the market is large enough and suitable siting is available). The “worst” games are those played by poorly-run clubs in enormous empty stadiums. The “best” games are in full, noisy houses at modern, NFL sized stadiums. But if you must choose between “big” and “full/noisy”, the clear preference is for the latter.

      • Outside of NER several of the quiet fan low attendance low budget teams are in SSSs. Chicago, SJ, Colorado. Most of the football stadium teams — Minnesota, Atlanta, Vancouver, Seattle — are actually well attended and lively.

      • You aren’t showing causality. Do you think that the SSS is the reason those teams have lower attendance? Would attendance for those improve if they moved (back, in many cases) into NFL stadiums? No. Of course not. Probably it would return to the (even worse) levels it had been previously, only with even less atmosphere due to the lower capacity factors. The inadequate size of their stadium isn’t making these teams fail. Ridiculous.
        If you really want to isolate the attendance impact between NFL stadiums and SSS, (i.e. select teams who have played in both, and compare attendances before-and-after). Many statistical folks have saved us the time if you google the research….

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