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MLS expansion quest over in San Diego? Not by a long shot

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More chatter about San Diego means there may be something on the horizon.

Will an MLS stadium replace Qualcomm one day?
Will an MLS stadium replace Qualcomm one day?
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Although the NFL's Chargers are remaining in San Diego for the next year, at least, immediate talk had quieted down concerning San Diego as an MLS expansion city.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber had even put cold water on putting a team in the city back in January, but last week during a visit to Sacramento, he was back at plumping up the border city's chances, mentioning it alongside Sacramento, St. Louis, Detroit, San Antonio and Austin as candidates for the 25th to 28th teams in the league in the years to come, as he confirmed expansion to 28 teams.

And the interest on the local side appears to be picking up rather than hinging solely on a speculative citizens' report, as San Diego State University once again advocated for a stadium to be built on the site of the current Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

The office of SDSU president Elliot Hershman released an article on its blog earlier this month advocating for the stadium site to be redeveloped as a second campus for the university, alongside the chance of a stadium.

We see a future in Mission Valley with community parks and recreational opportunities, low- to medium-density housing, a small number of research/technology transfer facilities and, possibly, a stadium - one on a significantly smaller scale than Qualcomm Stadium - that could be shared by San Diego State, a Major League Soccer franchise and other community partners. We are eager to join members of our community in discussing this vision.

While the now-regular mentions of San Diego in the expansion reckoning seem to indicate there may really be an owner ready to bankroll an MLS team, a story from the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier this month said John Moores, the former San Diego Padres owner and someone being mooted as a local candidate to own a San Diego MLS team, was "not actively pursuing a Major League Soccer franchise that could share a new Aztec Stadium."

So what to make of all this? It seems the chances of a San Diego MLS team are inching closer to plausible, but there's nothing at the moment to indicate it could really happen, at least publicly. With various sources on the local and league fronts bringing up San Diego's chances at an increasing clip, there may be smoke. But absent a viable owner emerging publicly and a concrete stadium plan put together and funded, it's still pretty far out there.

On the bright side for those interested in MLS in San Diego, Garber noted that the next phase of expansion probably won't kick off until 2020, so there's still time for developments to come together. Whether that will include SD remains to be seen.

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