Landon Donovan Plays in Sockers Celebrity Halftime Game & Works on Bringing MLS to San Diego – Donovan’s New Hometown
Getting local — and playing for the soccer team he remembers from childhood, Landon Donovan will play in the arena for the San Diego Sockers Celebrity Halftime game as he works on bringing MLS to his new hometown.
What are the next steps for San Diego being graced with an MLS team? Who do we need to talk to in order to push this initiative through? How will this benefit all citizens in the city?
These are important questions that need to be answered when considering this proposal. U.S. Men’s National Team legend Landon Donovan spoke with GoalNation’s Diane Scavuzzo on the project and his push for helping to promote this initiative.
Engaging fans, being authentic and genuine — that is what Landon Donovan says will make a big difference.
MLS Soccer News: The possibility of San Diego receiving a Major League Soccer (MLS) team has everybody in the area talking. It is an important opportunity for the entire city and all Southern California residents.
You hear the excitement and discussion from San Diegans of all different backgrounds. America’s Finest City has an amazing soccer culture beginning at the youth level and continuing all the way to a cross country border rivalry with Mexico. But, per usual, there are always skeptics which could hinder this project. Bringing MLS to San Diego (#MLSinSD) needed a champion to bring the project ‘home’ and now it has a living legend stepping up.
The all-time leading USMNT assist and goal scoring leader moved to the most southern city in California last year with his family, and loves being a local.
“I want to do whatever I can to help bring a MLS team to San Diego,” says Donovan.
Donovan met with local 14-time indoor soccer champions San Diego Sockers of the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) ahead of the 2nd Annual Celebrity Halftime Game to discuss how to help make the dream of MLS coming to San Diego a reality.
Donovan — who says he really likes to play arena soccer — will play in the San Diego Sockers’ Celebrity game on March 12th at 5:05 p.m. PT at the Valley View Casino Center.
“It’s obvious something special has been going on at the Sockers for a long time and I’ve always wanted to experience it,” says Donovan.
In addition to playing in the arena during the Celebrity Halftime show, The San Diego Sockers and Donovan will be working together to identify opportunities in order to collect the required signatures for a privately financed “SoccerCity/SDSU/Riverpark” compound at the current Qualcomm Stadium location.
“Having an MLS team in San Diego would be great for the sport and the entire soccer community in San Diego,” says Sean Bowers, San Diego Sockers General Manager.
“We totally support the bid and look forward to working with FS Investors, Landon Donovan and everyone else involved in making San Diego the premier location for the next MLS expansion team,” says Bowers.
Donovan who grew up in Redlands, CA, just two hours north of San Diego. Donovan played youth soccer in the region before beginning his professional career — in fact, Donovan competed as a youth soccer player in the Surf Cup ‘Best of the Best’ youth soccer tournament.
GoalNation’s Diane Scavuzzo had a chance to speak with Landon Donovan — here is the interview:
Diane Scavuzzo: It would be wonderful to have an MLS team in San Diego — but what are some of the reasons why the project might fail?
Landon Donovan: I think anytime something of this magnitude happens, you are going to have people that are envious – maybe people who don’t like soccer, maybe people who for whatever reason has alternative motives.
But the goal for everyone who cares about this, is to show them why this is beneficial and what it does for a city.
In the wake of the Chargers leaving, we’d like to show that we are the opposite — we want to make this something San Diego is proud of.
We want to include people and unite them together.
Diane Scavuzzo: San Diego is known as a city where the sun is shining and people abandon their plans to hang outside. People say the Chargers suffered from this ….
Landon Donovan: That’s a traditional knock against cities like San Diego or Los Angeles. I think what we’ve seen now in the MLS is, it’s not fool proof, but cities like Orlando, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Toronto – the expansion teams that have come in understand that if you follow a plan and get people invested, not just financially but emotionally, they will show up.
Now you see it in Atlanta. I wouldn’t have imaged Atlanta as being a soccer town, but they have 30,000 season tickets already. They have done a great job.
If you promote it, market it and show it the right way – the key thing is to let people be involved in it and give people ownership of it – they are going to show up.
Getting everyone involved — that’s the key differentiator.
If I invested five dollars in Valley View Casino Center, I want it to do well. I’m going to show up, be a season ticket holder and tell my friends about the San Diego Sockers. With just a small investment of five dollars, I would do it. So, imagine if you are a season ticket holder and are involved in the process – you help pick the name, colors and help build this. Of course you are going to be invested in it.
Diane Scavuzzo: LAFC had a whole campaign on picking the name and logo. Do you think it was a good approach in terms of outreach?
Landon Donovan: I think it’s smart. Why wouldn’t you do that?
Soccer is unique.
You don’t get the same out reach in other sports. The NHL expansion team in Las Vegas doesn’t have this type of engagement. They say, we’re the corporation, we bought the name and here is the name, colors, etc. Soccer is so unique.
That’s why when you go to England, South America or France – you see people save up their $100 every week and spend it on a soccer ticket. It’s part of their identity.
That’s what soccer has — that other sports don’t.
Engaging people from the beginning – it’s easy to say from a corporate standpoint, “Yea, we’re going to engage the fans.”
You have to be authentic, genuine and have to mean it.
If you’re not, people are going to know that it is fake and people are going to call you on it.
My intention, and everyone involved, is to make it authentic and let people be involved during the process.
Diane Scavuzzo: San Diego is a congested youth soccer community with a thriving culture and tens of thousands of kids playing the beautiful game. What do you say to those skeptics about a MLS team coming to this town?
Landon Donovan: The youth soccer culture is a very real part of all of this. My plan would be to make sure everybody feels involved with the process.
Anyway you slice it, when you have an MLS team here and have an academy team, that’s going to be the cream of the crop in the area.
That’s the way it should be in any system. The professional MLS team should be aware of where the best players are. There are so many talented kids in this area and there are so many incredible people that have built youth soccer in this area.
We would be stupid not to include them in this. It would be foolish and short sighted. The more people feel part of this the better.
Diane Scavuzzo: For any youth club that is apprehensive, what do you suggest they do?
Landon Donovan: Be a part of it. Reach out. Reach out to me. We will be reaching out. We want to make sure they are part of this and not excluded.
If you have an unbelievably talented 9-year-old, what’s best for that player should be to come to the San Diego MLS Academy at some point and get better in order to give themselves a chance to play on Saturdays at the new stadium.
If everybody cares about the well being of the players, and puts aside their personal interests and ego, then that will happen.
If people get possessive, territorial and want to be the one who developed the kid and get all the credit, then we are going to have a problem. We are going to have a systemic problem. Not just in San Diego, a problem that will be an issue all across the country.
It doesn’t mean that there’s only one route. There are lots of routes, but eventually we should all be partners in this so everybody is benefiting emotionally and financially. Everybody feels part of something going on.
Diane Scavuzzo: So, people should sign the petition to bring an MLS team to SD ….
Landon Donovan: I grew up loving this sport.
This sport has taken me from a poor start in life financially, socially and emotionally to learning three languages; traveling the world; understanding people and knowing how to be passionate in life.
This sport has given me everything I’ve had. I understand how important that is. I understand everyone has their angle of what they want to do with this piece of land. I’ve lived it. I know how important this sport can be to people.
My goal, in all of this, would be to help this city and the young people to grow the way I did. That would be very rewarding for me.
If people are apprehensive, ask questions! If you do the research and look through the project – what are the possibilities with or without the project?
To me, it’s a home run. #MLSinSD
Again, I’m biased because I know what it can do for people.
Following his stellar professional career, Donovan has served as an MLS Ambassador growing the game in the United States. Since moving to San Diego, he continues this push to involve all organizations in the process of soccer reaching its utmost potential.