If San Diego is ever eventually awarded an MLS expansion team, it'll have a noisy neighbor.
The NASL announced Monday that the league is expanding to San Diego next year, with a yet-to-be-named club owned, in part, by active players Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sow.
The league says that the San Diego franchise, which will give the NASL 10 clubs, is seeking a location in North County to build a privately financed soccer complex, and the San Diego Tribune reports that it would house a 10,000-seat stadium and cost between $10-15 million. The NASL plans on launching this team in 2018 and it will temporarily play at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium as it kicks off.
“San Diego is a beautiful place and the love and passion the people have for soccer made this an easy choice for us,” Hazard said in a statement. “My friends and I are honored to turn this dream into a reality and we can’t wait to get started and win some games.”
Added Ba, the majority owner who teamed with Hazard at Chelsea in 2013-14 and now plays in China with Shanghai Shenhua: “Success is our goal – with the club, with the community, with everything that we do,” Ba said. “One of our goals is to sign players who have a strong passion for the game, who are competitive and love to win. All my life as a football player, I lived with competition and competition is going to be good for us and for San Diego. I look forward to competing against our fellow California clubs and the rest of the NASL, as well as MLS clubs in the U.S. Open Cup. It is going to be up to us to be the best.”
Ba could play for the club in addition to being an owner–much like Didier Drogba with USL's Phoenix Rising FC–according to the Tribune.
San Diego will join Orange County as expansion teams next year as NASL looks to continue re-building after a tumultuous year. It secured provisional Division 2 sanctioning by U.S. Soccer after facing a potential collapse.