Three months after announcing “we’re not going anywhere,” the faithful San Diego team has changed its stance — and its direction.
The second-tier professional football club folds after four seasons.
Owner Andrew Vasiliadis announced Thursday morning through video that Loyal will go out of business at the end of the season with the arrival of the Major League Soccer franchise looming in 2025. He informed club staff of his decision on Wednesday.
“I have come to the conclusion that this will be San Diego’s last season for Loyal,” Vasiliadis, who was wearing a Loyal green jersey and cap, said in a 3-and-a-half-minute video message. “For those of you who have gotten to know me, and have spent some time talking to me, you know how it pains me to say this. I love our city, I was born and raised here, and I will always be loyal to San Diego.
“I don’t see myself doing this project anywhere else, and I refuse to put an inferior product in front of you.”
Loyal is currently fifth in the USL Championship’s 12-team Western Conference, and has 10 games remaining – four of which are at home. The final match of the regular season at Torrero Stadium in the US will be played on 7 October against the Oakland Roots, although the club may host a playoff match if they finish fourth.
The Loyal joins a double-digit list of failed professional soccer clubs in San Diego, dating back to the Toros of the 1960s, the Jaws of the 1970s and the outdoors Sockers of the 1980s. There was also Flash (twice), Pomitas, Boca, Gauchos, Top Guns, 1904 and Spirit. Even the in-house Sockers was shut down several times before it was revived.
nationally, According to one countOver the past 30 years, more than 150 professional soccer clubs have folded at various levels in the United States.
However, none of San Diego’s former teams faced the specter of sharing the market with Major League Soccer, which in May announced its 30 clubs.y The team will begin playing at the 35,000-capacity Snapdragon Stadium in February 2025.
As news spread of an imminent Major League Soccer announcement, Vasiliadis challenged He issued a seven-paragraph statement On May 10 he addressed his team’s future.
He said at the time: «(We are) committed to this mission, and we will continue to work tirelessly to achieve it». Our passion for football and our community will never waver. San Diego, we are one with you. Our love for this city runs deep. This is our home, and we are proud to be part of its rich and diverse tapestry.
“Our plan is simple. We’re not going anywhere.
The club explored options for staying in the area, including moving to the northern or southern county of Torrero Stadium, which is located five miles from the Snapdragon. Another possibility is to move to Santa Barbara, either permanently or temporarily while a more revenue-generating stadium situation can be found in San Diego.
“From Oceanside all the way to the border, we looked at everything and left no stone unturned,” Vasiliadis said.
But Vasiliadis told People he lost as much as $20m, which includes starting costs and an inaugural season played largely without fans. The economic realities of continuing down this path with a less certain future became untenable.
Another possible reason for the decision now: to allow staff to look for work elsewhere, including at the MLS club, which is starting to fill its front office.
Team Loyal was the brainchild of Warren Smith, who built the Sacramento Republic into a USL powerhouse and almost made the move to MLS. He recruited US National Team legend Landon Donovan, and with Vasiliadis as majority owner, they launched Team Loyal in March 2020 with a sold-out crowd of 6,100 for a 1-1 draw against the Eric Wynalda-coached Las Vegas Lights.
Then came the pandemic lockdown, and Loyal played in empty stadiums during the summer.
They missed the playoffs, but it was the manner in which they missed them that drew national attention. With Donovan as coach, the reliever twice walked off the field and lost games after opposing players uttered racist and homophobic slurs.
Loyal won 14 and 18 games over the next two seasons and reached the playoffs in both, losing in the opening round both times. They are 10-7-7 this season under head coach Nate Miller. who replaced Donovan. The next Loyal match is Saturday at the Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, Texas; Their next home match will be played on 3 September against Birmingham.
Loyal stood out among USL clubs with their first-rate front office and game-day expertise, regularly filling Torrero to the beat of the vibrant supporters’ section behind the eastern goal. There were also well-attended viewing parties in local pubs for away matches, a level of fan and community involvement that most Second Division clubs do not enjoy.
a Statement from the local populationOne of the two main groups of supporters said: “From dreaming of a team that represents us, to the pride in building this club, to the joy of our inclusive community, to the hope of hearing that a Loyal team won’t go.” Nowhere, until today’s devastating finale, was such an emotional journey. Our enthusiastic support has not wavered and will continue until the very last minute of the SD Loyal football match.
Members of the USL League rarely survive when MLS clubs come to town, either being absorbed by the big club, moving to another city or disbanding altogether. Miami FC is the only USL Championship team operating in the MLS market, and its future is increasingly uncertain given Inter Miami’s burgeoning popularity following the signing of Lionel Messi.
“I think together in the past four years we have set a new standard for what it means to have a professional soccer team in this city and be a reflection of our community,” Vasiliadis said in the video. “And im proud for that.
“I have a question. As we head into the last two months of the season, I ask you to keep fighting for the club. I ask you to celebrate and not be sad for what we have done for the last four years. I ask you to join us in Torero for our last four home games and represent your community, come together as friends And family, our encouragement.”
USL version He indicated that the league would “transfer the rights to the San Diego franchise,” but did not specify who or where the new ownership group might pass. He did not mention the imminent arrival of MLS but linked Loyal’s demise to an inappropriate place.
“Having a modern, commercially viable stadium solution is vital to our clubs’ long-term success and is a pillar of USL’s growth strategy,” Justin Papadakis, USL Executive Vice President, said in the release. “Despite pursuing multiple potential options collectively with SD Loyal leadership in the San Diego area, no appropriate solution has been reached for the stadium.
“The bottom line is, no matter how well a team performs on the field, having proper field placement is essential for all professional sports teams.”