Landon Donovan is getting his professional soccer franchise and it will play in the United Soccer League.
According to SI, Donovan and Warren Smith, founder and former owner of the USL’s Sacramento Republic FC, will be granted a USL Championship expansion team in San Diego. The new team will launch in either the 2020 or 2020 season and will play at the 6,000 seat Torero Stadium on the campus of the University of San Diego.
Donovan’s attempts to start a pro team began shortly after he retired. Starting in 2015, he spearheaded an effort to land an MLS expansion team for San Diego, but failed to secure public support for a stadium project. Last November, voters turned down a measure that would have allowed his Soccer City group to build a soccer stadium in Mission Valley, the former home of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.
When that failed, Donovan shifted his efforts to the USL, which is a private project that required no public funding and no voter approval. The effort became a reality when Smith approached the former LA Galaxy midfielder about the USL possibility shortly after the failed ballot initiative.
“As we all came down from that and we were trying figure out what was next, that’s when Warren reached out,” Donovan told SI. “I was a little hesitant at that time because of what had just gone on [with the Soccer City referendum]. But when I sat and thought about it, what has been important for me since moving to San Diego was bringing San Diegans something they can be proud of, and soccer is my avenue.”
Smith was slowly phased out of his role at Republic FC as they pursued MLS expansion. He left the project entirely last year and became a consultant for the USL’s Oklahoma City Energy. He’s now preparing to move to San Diego to concentrate on building that new franchise.
The USL Championship has 36 teams at the moment, but the league’s lineup is constantly in flux. Several of their franchises have been linked with MLS expansion. In addition to Smith’s Republic FC, Saint Louis FC has recently vaulted forward as well thanks to new investment and a potential privately funded stadium. Phoenix Rising and the Las Vegas Lights have also been linked.
An official announcement of the expansion team is expected some time on Wednesday.