MLS announces new expansion team in San Diego

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Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber announced on Thursday that San Diego would become the league's 30th team
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber announced on Thursday that San Diego would become the league's 30th team

Major League Soccer announced on Thursday that San Diego would become its 30th franchise, starting play in the 2025 season.

British-Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour has paid a record expansion fee of around $500 million for the rights to the team, a person with knowledge of the deal has told AFP.

"This city has been a target expansion market for us since our earliest days," said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

"We simply needed the right ownership group that really believed in this city, that believed in the sport, in our league and we needed the perfect stadium."

The team will play at the recently built 35,000-capacity Snapdragon Stadium, home to the San Diego Aztecs college football team and the San Diego Wave, a National Women's Soccer League franchise.

The new San Diego MLS club, whose name has yet to be decided, will be the league's fourth team in California, joining the San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles Galaxy and Los Angeles Football Club.

The previous record fee paid for entering MLS was the $325 million committed by Charlotte FC in 2019. The original entry fee to MLS, for its first season in 1996, was $5 million.

"We scouted the globe for the right opportunity with soccer and San Diego ticked all the boxes," said Mansour.

"As a family we don't just cheer from the stands but we put our money where our mouth is when it comes to soccer. This was too good an opportunity to miss."

Mansour's ownership group also includes the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, a federally recognized Native American tribe located in the San Diego area.

The investor group also includes six-time Major League Baseball All-Star and San Diego Padres infielder Manny Machado and Tom Vernon, founder of the Right to Dream foundation who has been involved in academies and clubs in Africa and Denmark.

Tom Penn, the former president of Los Angeles FC, will serve as the club's chief executive officer.

The 75-year-old Egyptian-born Mansour is a British citizen and lives in London.

He is chairman of his family's Mansour Group, which is involved in the automotive industry, financial services and real estate. Mansour also serves the senior treasurer of Britain's Conservative Party.

Garber has indicated the league could be looking for two more markets in the coming years.

Las Vegas, Sacramento, Detroit, Phoenix and Tampa have all been mentioned as possible future locations for new teams.

While 32 teams is much bigger than most first division leagues around the world, MLS, with teams from the United States and Canada, operates with an Eastern and Western Conference.

The NFL and NHL each have 32 teams while the NBA and MLB both have 30 teams.