The USL Championship team part-owned by United States soccer legend Landon Donovan is folding after four seasons of existence.
San Diego Loyal will not play on following the conclusion of the 2023 season, as the four-year-old franchise was unable to secure a stadium agreement for next season — and because Major League Soccer expansion franchise San Diego FC will begin play in 2025.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that this will be the last season for San Diego Loyal,” co-owner Andrew Vassiliadis said in a three-and-a-half minute social media video posted Thursday. “For those of you who got to know me, spent some time talking to me, you know how much this hurts for me to say. I love our city, I was born and raised here, and I will always be loyal to San Diego. I don’t see myself taking this project anywhere else, and I refuse to put an inferior product in front of you.”
No merger with San Diego FC after all
There had been rumors late last spring that San Diego Loyal could live on in Major League Soccer through a potential merger with San Diego FC, the MLS expansion team announced in mid-May. The confirmation that MLS would be coming to the city via a separate investment group culminated in the decision taken this week to “transition the franchise rights.”
“Despite collectively pursuing multiple potential options with SD Loyal‘s leadership in the San Diego area, an appropriate stadium solution has not materialized,” USL deputy CEO Justin Papadakis said in a statement.
The Loyal have played each season since its inception at Torero Stadium, located on the University of San Diego campus. The team gained nationwide attention during the 2020 season, when it forfeited games in consecutive weeks — in the heat of a playoff chase — in response to two of its players suffering racial and homophobic abuse in-game.
San Diego FC response
The MLS franchise poised to take the Loyal‘s place issued its own statement Thursday in response to the news about the club’s impending dissolution.
“We commend the entire San Diego Loyal organization, its founder Andrew Vassiliadis and Landon Donovan for their dedication to support soccer in San Diego and contributions to grow the game throughout the region,” the San Diego FC statement read. “We greatly admire the good work that the Loyal has done in this community and their passionate fans, including the fervent Chavos de Loyal and The Locals supporters groups.”
San Diego FC will play its home games at Snapdragon Stadium, located on the campus of San Diego State University, beginning with the 2025 MLS season.