Landon Donovan and USL: Rumor coming true in San Diego

Midfielder Landon Donovan recently settled some of his many job rumors by announcing he’ll head a new USL Championship club in San Diego.

So Christmas comes early as Landon Donovan joins owner Warren Smith in kicking off a new USL Championship franchise in San Diego. The club starts play in 2021 in San Diego University’s Torero Stadium.

USL already fields the San Diego Zest, a League Two team. The team run by owner Smith and Executive Vice President Donovan will be a notch closer to MLS competition level.

The San Diego Championship franchise has the most soccer-experienced leadership among USL teams. Owner Warren Smith co-founded MLS expansion candidate Sacramento Republic FC. Executive Vice President Landon Donovan is the only U.S. player to lead the Men’s National Team in 50-plus goals and assists in his career. His 157 appearances are the second-most in history.

After Bundesliga’s Bayer 04 Leverkusen loaned Donovan to the San Diego Earthquakes in 2001, he tallied seven goals and 10 assists. That helped the Earthquakes to their first MLS Cup. When the team won their second championship in 2003, Donovan was awarded MLS Cup MVP honors.

Moving to the LA Galaxy in 2005, Donovan scored 12 goals, notched 10 assists and led the team to win the MLS Cup. That was his third MLS championship in five years. He totaled 112 goals and 107 assists with the LA Galaxy before retiring at the end of the 2014 season.

Since his retirement, Donovan has attracted a perpetual stream of job rumors. He would become the next U.S. Men’s National Team head coach. He would become an adviser to any number of European teams. Then the rumor: He would come back to MLS in some capacity. That last rumor, in a way, is the one that is, in fact, no rumor at all. It is becoming true.

Donovan locked his focus on San Diego some time ago. About two years ago, he hooked up with a group working to lure the MLS Board of Governors to consider them for a franchise.

Brilliantly, Donovan and Warren Smith decided to go for long-term results, no matter how long that term turns out to be. They have ensured a top-tier pro soccer team will begin play soon in San Diego. It’s just that, for now, it’s the top tier of USL.

As furiously as USL has been growing, hungry supporters in the area won’t immediately miss the fact that their team isn’t MLS yet. The MLS Board of Governors won’t have to speculate what one of their franchises would look like in San Diego. Donovan and Smith will show them.

And Landon Donovan will put all the rumors to rest about what work he has now. It’s the job he really was preparing for all his life. He’s the guy running your competitive soccer franchise.