MLB star Manny Machado is part of the ownership group bringing an MLS expansion franchise to San Diego. The San Diego Padres infielder is the latest big-name athlete to invest in the soccer league.
Machado was one of four limited partners named Thursday in the formal announcement of the franchise, which will become Major League Soccer’s 30th club after a multi-year search. The group, led by British billionaire Mohamed Mansour and the local Sycuan Tribe, is paying a league-record $500 million expansion fee, Sportico reported earlier this week.
In addition to Machado, minority partners include Zephyr Partners co-founder Brad Termini, Right to Dream founder Tom Vernon and Right to Dream board member Dan Dickinson. (Right to Dream is a network of soccer academies and training centers owned by Mansour’s investment firm).
“For many years we have believed San Diego would be a terrific MLS market due to its youthful energy, great diversity, and the fact that soccer is an essential part of everyday life for so many people,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Mohamed Mansour and the Sycuan Tribe have an incredible vision for building a club that will inspire and unite soccer fans throughout the city and region.”
MLS valuations have jumped in recent years, as has the cost to join the league. Not only is the $500 million expansion fee a record, but also only one club has paid even half that total (David Tepper’s Charlotte FC paid $325 million prior to its 2022 debut).
As the valuations grow, so has demand from athletes and celebrities. Franchises in leagues such as the NFL and NBA are worth multi-billions, which elevates the price for even the smallest stakes. MLS clubs remain in the sweet spot where a high-paid modern athlete can afford a small chunk. Machado has made about $164 million in his MLB career so far, and is in the middle of a 11-year, $350 million extension he signed with the Padres at the end of February.
Other well-known athletes who have invested in MLS clubs include NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes (Sporting KC), two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant (Philadelphia Union), two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (Nashville FC) and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson (Seattle Sounders). James Harden (Houston Dynamo), Ken Griffey Jr. (Seattle Sounders), Steve Nash (Vancouver Whitecaps), Dwyane Wade (Real Salt Lake), Mark Ingram (D.C. United), Derrick Henry (Nashville) and Filip Forsberg (Nashville) have also bought small stakes in teams.
Mansour, who was recently named senior treasurer of the UK’s Conservative Party, is the founder and chairman of London-based investment firm Man Capital. The Sycuan Tribe is one of 12 tribes of the local Kumeyaay Nation; its partners include the Padres and the San Diego Symphony orchestra.
The new San Diego soccer team, which doesn’t yet have a name, is planning to join MLS in 2025. It will play home games in 35,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium, which cost $310 million and opened last year. Former LAFC president Tom Penn will be CEO.