San Diego FC breaks ground on training facility and Right to Dream Academy ahead of 2025 inaugural season
October 12th, 2023
San Diego FC marked a historic moment today as the 30th Club in Major League Soccer broke ground on the cutting-edge performance centre and its highly anticipated Right to Dream Academy. The moment is a significant step in the Club’s march towards a 2025 kick off and commitment to developing the next generation of athletes.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place at the site of the future facility in El Cajon on the Sycuan Reservation and was attended by Don Garber (Commissioner, MLS), Mohamed Mansour (Chairman, San Diego FC), Cody Martinez (Vice-Chairman, San Diego FC and Sycuan Tribal Chairman), Tom Vernon (Founding Partner, San Diego FC and Founder/CEO, Right to Dream) and Manny Machado (Founding Partner, San Diego FC and Padres third baseman) as well as other key figures, stakeholders, and esteemed guests, highlighting the importance of this project in global football and the world of sports development.
“This is a foundational moment for our Club. The San Diego FC Performance Center and Right to Dream Academy will enable us to develop future generations of world-class players across greater San Diego,” said Tom Penn, CEO, San Diego FC. “This groundbreaking initiative reaffirms our commitment to create opportunities for young talent to flourish and our vision to become the epicenter of football excellence and innovation in North America.”
“The groundbreaking is a historic moment for sports in the U.S.,” said Mr. Mansour. “San Diego FC is the first major sports organization in America to be jointly owned by a Native American tribe and now we are the first major club to build a training facility and Right to Dream academy on Native American land. Singing Hills is hallowed ground, and we hope that what we build here will do it justice and create a lasting legacy.”
Continued Chairman Martinez, “This is a proud moment for the Sycuan Tribe and a giant step in serving the next generation of young athletes and future leaders throughout the San Diego community. Today’s historic groundbreaking marks not only the construction of San Diego FC’s state-of-the-art performance center but also lays the foundation to nurture the dreams of young talent, fostering a stronger community, and creating a legacy of soccer excellence.”
The San Diego FC Performance Center and Right to Dream Academy will be an integral part of the Club’s 125,000 square-foot campus that will feature a 50,000-square-foot state-of-the-art sports performance center shared by the first team and academy teams, and five full-sized soccer fields, including three natural turf fields and two synthetic turf fields. “A cultural focal point of the facility is the second floor dining room and communal hub, overlooking the training fields, which fosters engagement between the academy players, coaches, teachers and professional players,” says Jonathan Emmett, Principal and Global Sports Practice Area Leader, Gensler. The residential academy will accommodate male students between the ages of 12-18, spanning grades six through 12. The first group of residential athletes will be enrolled in Fall 2025. Additionally, San Diego FC will create a non-residential girls pathway at the academy, making San Diego FC the first MLS club to develop emerging female talent.
“Right to Dream San Diego will offer a number of firsts in the U.S. and MLS footballing landscapes, including a fully-funded school, residences and football academy that offers pathways for young talent to flourish both on and off the field,” said Tom Vernon, Founder/CEO, Right to Dream. “As we have in Ghana, Denmark and Egypt we will provide opportunities to student athletes to reach their academic potential, affect positive change in their communities and become world-class football players.”
The Right to Dream Academy offers a unique model of talent development by way of its holistic approach of character building, football development and focus on education. Unlike the traditional U.S. pay-to-play model, Right to Dream San Diego is a scholarship-based academy whereby all enrolled, residential athletes will receive full five-year scholarships regardless of football performance. Upon completion of the project, San Diego FC will become the first MLS club to offer a privately operated school combined with a residential football academy.
“To see this project come to life is absolutely incredible,” said Machado. “It’s important for me to leave a lasting legacy in San Diego, which has been so supportive. Our San Diego FC vision for the youth development academy means there will be more opportunities for young San Diego athletes, boys and girls, who may not have otherwise had them. I’m looking forward to seeing the next generation of talented athletes and future leaders emerge from this program.”
“The San Diego FC Performance Center and Right to Dream Academy will represent one of the most innovative soccer development facilities not only in MLS but in all of global soccer,” said Commissioner Garber. “For boys and girls in the San Diego area, it will serve as an inspiration to everyone who dreams of playing for their local MLS or NWSL team, or even representing the U.S. on the world stage.”
The 28-acre project was designed by Gensler. San Diego based Zephyr is serving as the development partner on the project, led by San Diego FC founding partner Brad Termini. AECOM is the general contractor.