MLS Expansion: Garber high on San Diego

As a market with a strong pro soccer following -- for Mexico's Tijuana across the border -- San Diego has often been written off as an MLS expansion market. But MLS commissioner Don Garber says he's always looked at the Xolos support as a positive -- and the Chargers' impending exit only makes San Diego a stronger pro soccer market.

"People ask me that a lot and I don't understand [the negative view of it]," of the presence of Tijuana, which estimates 8,000 fans a game at its Estadio Caliente come from Southern California. "We have two teams in L.A., we have two teams in New York. So what could be better than having a Liga MX rival across the border? It never remotely occurred to me that that would be a competitive threat. Frankly, it's the opposite. It's an opportunity."

Garber's comments came just days after the NFL Chargers announced that they are leaving San Diego for Los Angeles and will be playing at StubHubCenter, home of the LA Galaxy, until its new Inglewood stadium they'll share with the Rams is built.

"I think MLS has a better chance of succeeding in markets when a big major league team leaves.," said Garber. "It's less competition and I think fans are looking for something else to attach themselves to. We saw that in Seattle. We're hoping for that in St. Louis, and we hope San Diego falls in that category."

A group headed by Mike Stone, a La Jolla private equity investor and philanthropist, is spearheading the San Diego expansion effort.

The plan is for the MLS team to build a 30,000-seat (20,000 for soccer plus an extra 10,000 for football) stadium at Qualcomm Stadium that it would share with San Diego State University's football team. The stadium would be part of a bigger development project.

The San Diego Union Tribune reported that an unveiling of what the Stone group that also includes San Diego Padres owner Peter Seidler and retired Qualcomm executive Steve Altman and SDSU have in mind would come before the USA-Serbia game in San Diego on Jan. 29.

"We have spent a lot of time down there [in San Diego]," Garber said. "There is a good group that's come together. We know the investor prospects well, and I've been there quietly. I'll be down there for the U.S. game, and I think it would be a great MLS city."

ST. LOUIS. Despite recent setbacks in support for public funding that he admitted surprised him, Garber remained optimistic about the St. Louis expansion effort.

“St Louis is a great soccer city," he said, "and it’s been 22 years that we’ve been thinking it would be a perfect city for an MLS team. It needed a passionate, committed ownership group including local people. We have that now. It needed a stadium plan, and we believe we have a good plan for a stadium. Hopefully we can keep moving it forward.”

2 comments about "MLS Expansion: Garber high on San Diego".
  1. Fan Enlightened , January 16, 2017 at 8:41 a.m.

    Can we please stop with the charlatans trying to sell us on using public money to build stadiums for rich people? It is a sham and snake oil sales tactics to believe that a stadium benefits a community with tax revenue. Said owners, Don, pay taxes anyways on their $15 beers and $12 hot dogs while pocketing their "investment" and making money hand over fist. Why do people like Slick Don Garber think the public is so dumb?
    Possibly because he looks at his time with NFL that he thinks they can get to a point that they can threaten the local community and leave for greener pastures. When will Americans learn that the Franchise system doesn't value fans and only sees them as wallets they steal from to make money? True clubs and competition eliminate this type of ownership behavior. Can you imagine what Manchester United (Glazer) or Arsenal (Kroenke) fans sticking with the team if they moved to Newcastle? They would stop supporting them and the Newcastle fans would laugh at the thought of supporting them. Here, LA and Las Vegas lemmings salivate at the thought of NFL teams coming and Oakland and San Diego fans are screwed. This is acceptable? And believe me, Donny has this mindset in the future and the owners do to. Once the league strengthens and locks out communities, it will then use this system to move to tax havens, and the fans will suffer.
    The only true way to end this is to build true clubs and have an open and honest competition that rewards merit, not money.
    Wake up people.

  2. Glenn Maddock, January 16, 2017 at 5:15 p.m.

    The new San Diego plan uses no taxpayer money. It's exactly what San Diego wants. A brand new stadium that local residents don't have to pay for.

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