SAN DIEGO -- A group of investors who last week proposed building a new stadium in Mission Valley submitted an application Monday for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise in San Diego to league Commissioner Don Garber.
The 24-team MLS is entertaining bids from potential ownership groups to add new members. At a news conference, Garber said he anticipates receiving a dozen applications by Tuesday's deadline, with four to be accepted.
“We would like nothing more than to deliver the world’s most popular sport to one of the world’s greatest cities,” said businessman Mike Stone, whose proposal also includes a soccer academy to foster young talent. “Our goal is to make San Diego the epicenter of soccer in the United States.”
The local bid comes more than two weeks after the National Football League's Chargers announced plans to move to Los Angeles after 56 seasons in San Diego.
City officials are determining how long to keep open Qualcomm Stadium, which is far too large for the MLS and the San Diego State University football team. The Aztecs have a lease through the 2018 season, and are negotiating a two-year extension to provide time to find a new home.
SDSU has been discussing options with the local MLS group, led by investor Mike Stone and Juan Carlos Rodriguez, the president of Univision Deportes. School officials have also been in touch with the Padres about making renovations that would allow football to be played at Petco Park.
At the news conference, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the city wants to take advantage of an opportunity to remake the 166-acre Qualcomm Stadium property.
"It's an opportunity to create jobs, it's an opportunity to revitalize Mission Valley and become an economic driver that will help us pave streets, keep our neighborhoods safe and do all the things we do in this great city," Faulconer said.
The proposal for the property includes building a stadium of undetermined but smaller seating capacity, tearing down Qualcomm Stadium, creating a park along the San Diego River, and constructing residential and commercial buildings. Backers of the plan said no public money would be required.
They also said they would engage the public by collecting signatures that will be delivered to the City Council -- which could either approve the project or place it before voters.
Rodriguez said there will be other ways for the public to be involved.
"We have the financial resources, but the most important thing, that we have to make sure, is that we have all San Diegans be part of the process of creating the DNA of the team," Rodriguez said. "It is very important for us that you join us in the process of finding the name, finding the logo, finding the colors, the songs and all the DNA that we're going to be creating for the team."
He said such opportunities would be available online.
Garber said San Diego checks many of the boxes for MLS expansion, including passionate fans, a young city, a new breed of owners and the stadium vision.
US soccer legend Landon Donovan was on hand to mingle with fans.
”Soccer here in San Diego is a natural fit and I’m first and foremost a fan,” said Donovan. When asked if he would coach or play a role on the future team, Donovan played coy.
“Well just have to see what happens.”