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
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
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
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.”