Sports in San Diego

Sports in San Diego includes one major professional sports team, several teams from minor professional leagues, semi-pro and amateur teams, and college teams, in addition to other sporting events. The most popular sports team in San Diego is the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball (MLB). Also popular are the college sports teams of the San Diego State Aztecs, which play in NCAA Division I.

San Diego previously hosted the National Football League (NFL)'s San Diego Chargers (now the Los Angeles Chargers) from 1961 to 2017. The city has also previously hosted three professional basketball teams: the National Basketball Association (NBA)'s San Diego Rockets from 1967 to 1971 (now the Houston Rockets), and the San Diego Clippers from 1978 to 1984 (now the Los Angeles Clippers), in addition to the now-defunct American Basketball Association (ABA)'s San Diego Conquistadors/Sails from 1972 to 1975. San Diego has never had a National Hockey League (NHL) franchise, but has hosted multiple minor league teams, including the current American Hockey League (AHL) franchise, the San Diego Gulls. San Diego likewise has never hosted a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, but is home to the minor league USL Championship (USLC)'s San Diego Loyal SC and the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA)'s San Diego 1904 FC, as well as Major Arena Soccer League (MASL)'s San Diego Sockers.

The city is also the home to Major League Rugby (MLR)'s San Diego Legion, the National Lacrosse League (NLL)'s San Diego Seals, World TeamTennis (WTT)'s San Diego Aviators, and the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL)'s San Diego Growlers.

Professional teams

Major professional teams

Club Sport Since League Venue (capacity) Attendance avg.
San Diego Padres Baseball 1969 Major League Baseball Petco Park (40,209) 29,585 (2019)

Other top level professional teams

Club Sport Since League Venue (capacity) Attendance avg.
San Diego Seals Box lacrosse 2017 National Lacrosse League Pechanga Arena (12,920) 7,769 (2018–19)
San Diego Legion Rugby union 2018 Major League Rugby Torero Stadium (6,000) 3,043 (2019)
San Diego Sockers Indoor soccer 2009 Major Arena Soccer League Pechanga Arena (12,920) 3,607 (2018–19)
San Diego Aviators Team tennis 2014 World TeamTennis Omni La Costa Resort and Spa (2,100) N/A
San Diego Growlers Ultimate 2015 American Ultimate Disc League Balboa Stadium (3,000) N/A

Minor League professional teams

Club Sport Since League Venue (capacity) Attendance avg. Competition


San Diego Gulls Ice hockey 2015 American Hockey League Pechanga Arena (12,920) 9,021 (2018–19) 2
San Diego Strike Force Indoor football 2019 Indoor Football League Pechanga Arena (12,920) 1,734 (2018–19) 2
San Diego Loyal SC Soccer 2020


USL Championship Torero Stadium (8,000) N/A 2
San Diego 1904 FC Soccer 2019 National Independent Soccer Association SDCCU Stadium (70,561) 2,782 (2019) 3

San Diego is the largest United States city to have not won a Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals or any other Major League sports championship. Some fans believe that there is a curse on the major league teams in the city.[1] While team tennis is not regarded as a major sport, the San Diego Buds did win the TeamTennis championship in both 1984 and 1985, and the San Diego Aviators won the World TeamTennis title in 2016.


Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres play in Petco Park. The semi-final and final games of the inaugural World Baseball Classic were played there in 2006, and an earlier round of the second WBC was held there in 2009. Hosted the MLB All-Star Game in 2016 which was the last All Star game to determine home field advantage in the World Series.


The San Diego Chargers were a professional American football team based in San Diego. The Chargers competed in the National Football League (NFL). The club began play in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League (AFL), and spent its first season in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego in 1961.[2] The Chargers joined the NFL as result of the AFL–NFL merger in 1970, and played their home games at the venue now known as SDCCU Stadium.

On January 12, 2016, the Chargers were given a one-year option to join the Rams in the Los Angeles area.[3] Team chairman and CEO Dean Spanos announced on January 29, 2016, that the Chargers would remain in San Diego for the 2016 season.[4] In 2017 the Chargers moved back to their original city of Los Angeles, leaving San Diego without a professional football team for the first time since 1961.[5]

On May 29, 2018, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) announced they would start a franchise in San Diego, the San Diego Fleet.[6] The team played their home games at SDCCU Stadium, while San Diego native and former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz was the head coach.[7] The league suspended operations before it could complete its inaugural season.

Ice hockey

San Diego has a long history of minor league ice hockey teams, starting with the San Diego Skyhawks that played in the Pacific Coast Hockey League from 1948 to 1950. Hockey returned in 1966 with the San Diego Gulls of the Western Hockey League, which were created by Robert Breitbard to have a tenant for his upcoming arena – now known as the Valley View Casino Center.[8] The Gulls soon grew a fanbase in San Diego, with averages of over 9,000 spectators. By 1971, the year Breitbard's National Basketball Association franchise relocated to Texas to become the Houston Rockets, the Gulls had attendances bigger than both the Rockets and the Californian National Hockey League teams, the Los Angeles Kings and Oakland Seals.[9] The Gulls ceased operations in 1974 to give way for the relocated San Diego Mariners of the World Hockey Association, which folded in 1977. Another Mariners team was one of the charter teams of the short-lived Pacific Hockey League that same year, being renamed Hawks in the following and last PHL season. The arena remained without hockey until 1990, when another San Diego Gulls team was founded in the International Hockey League (1990–95). After the IHL team moved to Los Angeles, another Gulls team played for over a decade in both the West Coast Hockey League (1995–03) and ECHL (2003–06). The current San Diego Gulls, of the American Hockey League, started playing in 2015, and are owned by the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.[8]

Box lacrosse

On August 30, 2017, the National Lacrosse League awarded an expansion franchise to the city of San Diego and owner Joseph Tsai. The team will begin play in December 2018 with its home arena being the Valley View Casino Center. On October 24, the NLL and San Diego owners released the team name, the San Diego Seals. Also released was the colors, purple, gold, gray, and black, and the logo. On October 24, 2017 the name was revealed as the San Diego Seals.

Semi-pro and amateur teams

Club Sport Since League Venue (capacity)
Old Mission Beach A.C. Rugby 1966 Pacific Rugby Premiership The Little Q
ASC San Diego Soccer 2015 National Premier Soccer League Mission Bay Stadium
San Diego Zest FC Soccer 2016 USL League Two N/A
San Diego Internacional FC Soccer 2019 United Premier Soccer League Mission Bay Stadium
San Diego SeaLions Soccer 1988 Women's Premier Soccer League Manchester Stadium
San Diego Sockers Premier Indoor soccer 2009 Premier Arena Soccer League Pechanga Arena
San Diego Sabers Ice hockey 2001 Western States Hockey League Iceoplex Escondido
San Diego Surf Basketball 2009 American Basketball Association HourGlass Arena
San Diego Surge Football 2010 Women's Football Alliance Santana High School


The original North American Soccer League was awarded an expansion franchise known as the San Diego Sockers. The original Sockers indoor franchise also played in the NASL indoor league, Major Indoor Soccer League, Continental Indoor Soccer League, World Indoor Soccer League and second Major Indoor Soccer League. The current Sockers play in the indoor Major Arena Soccer League.

With the expansion of the minor professional league National Premier Soccer League, the San Diego Flash saw the addition of the North County Battalion and Albion SC Pros. The San Diego SeaLions play in the Women's Premier Soccer League, and the San Diego Zest play in the USL Premier Development League with the SoCal Surf.San Diego Internacional FC began playing in the UPSL in 2019.[10]

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber mentioned San Diego as an expansion candidate in February 2014. Garber reiterated in April 2016 that San Diego is one of the expansion candidates. The owners interested in bringing MLS to San Diego include MLB San Diego Padres owner Peter Seidler.[11] An MLS team in San Diego would be located close to two MLS teams in Los Angeles, as well as the Liga MX side Xolos of Tijuana.[12]

The NFL's Chargers 2017 relocation to Los Angeles has accelerated the chances for an MLS expansion team in San Diego.[13][14][15] On February 20, 2017, a new plan for the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley was unveiled by a La Jolla investment group that's trying to lure a MLS team to San Diego.[16] On 3 March 2017, former LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan joined the ownership group trying to bring the next MLS expansion team to San Diego.[17]

On June 25, 2017, it was announced that a San Diego 1904 FC franchise would join the second tier of the American soccer pyramid North American Soccer League in 2018. The club's founders include professional soccer players Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sow.[18][19] The club intends to build a soccer complex somewhere in San Diego's North County and will play its games at the University of San Diego in the meantime.[20] Due to the cancellation of the 2018 NASL season, the expansion team announced it is negotiating an agreement to join the United Soccer League in 2019.[21]

On June 19, 2019, it was announced that Landon Donovan would be bringing a new USL Championship team to San Diego.[22]


Rugby union is a developing sport in San Diego. The multiple clubs, ranging from men's and women's clubs to collegiate and high school, are part of the Southern California Rugby Football Union.[23] San Diego is represented in rugby by Old Mission Beach Athletic Club RFC (OMBAC).[24] OMBAC is the home club of USA Rugby's former captain Todd Clever[25] who played rugby professionally abroad for the Japanese Top League team Suntory Sungoliath. The USA Sevens, an event in the annual World Rugby Sevens Series for international teams in rugby sevens, was held in Petco Park from 2007 through 2009 before moving to Las Vegas for 2010. The San Diego Breakers plays at Torero Stadium and began play in the only PRO Rugby season before the league folded. San Diego is also home to the Major League Rugby team San Diego Legion.

Team tennis

The San Diego Aviators of World TeamTennis (WTT) moved to San Diego from New York prior to the start of the 2014 season. They were formerly known as the New York Sportimes. They played their 2014 home matches at Valley View Casino Center. In 2015, they moved to Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad. In their first three seasons in San Diego, they finished with the league's top regular-season record twice (2014 and 2016), and won the King Trophy as 2016 WTT champions.

San Diego has had two previous WTT franchises. The San Diego Friars were a WTT expansion franchise that began play in 1975. They used the San Diego Sports Arena (now Valley View Casino Center) as their primary home venue but played some home matches at the Anaheim Convention Center between 1975 and 1977, before Anaheim got its own team in 1978. After missing the playoffs their first two seasons, the Friars qualified in 1977 and 1978, and were the 1978 Western Division champions, but lost in the quarterfinals. The team folded after the 1978 season. International Tennis Hall of Famers Rod Laver and Dennis Ralston played for the Friars.

In 1981, the Friars returned as an expansion franchise as WTT resumed operations rebranded as TeamTennis after a hiatus. After three seasons as the Friars, the team was renamed the San Diego Buds before the 1984 season. The Buds won both the 1984 and 1985 TeamTennis championships but folded following the 1985 season. Hall of Famer Rosie Casals was the Friars player-coach in 1983.


The San Diego State Aztecs (MW) and the University of San Diego Toreros (WCC) are NCAA Division I teams. The UC San Diego Tritons (CCAA), Cal State San Marcos Cougars (CCAA), and Point Loma Nazarene Sea Lions (Pacific West Conference) are members of NCAA Division II, while the San Diego Christian Hawks (GSAC) are a member of the NAIA. UCSD will start a transition to Division I in 2020, joining the Big West Conference.

Club University Enrollment League Primary conference
San Diego State Aztecs San Diego State University 34,828 NCAA Division I Mountain West Conference
San Diego Toreros University of San Diego 8,328 NCAA Division I West Coast Conference
UC San Diego Tritons University of California, San Diego 38,798 NCAA Division II California Collegiate Athletic Association
Cal State San Marcos Cougars California State University San Marcos 13,893 NCAA Division II California Collegiate Athletic Association
Point Loma Nazarene Sea Lions Point Loma Nazarene University 3,480 NCAA Division II Pacific West Conference
San Diego Christian Hawks San Diego Christian College 681 NAIA Golden State Athletic Conference

    Sporting events

    The annual Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament (formerly the Buick Invitational) on the PGA Tour occurs at the municipally-owned Torrey Pines Golf Course. This course was also the site of the 2008 U.S. Open Golf Championship.

    There have been two international track and field competitions at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista called the Thorpe Cup, which is an annual decathlon and heptathlon meeting between the United States and Germany.

    San Diego is home to several premier amateur sports events, such as the San Diego Crew Classic, held in Mission Bay every spring and featuring 100 or more college and amateur crews. The amateur beach sport Over-the-line was invented in San Diego, and the annual world Over-the-line championships are held at Mission Bay every year. The San Diego Yacht Club hosted the America's Cup yacht races three times during the period 1988 to 1995.

    San Diego is also host to the Bayfair Cup, a hydroplane boat race in the H1 Unlimited season. The race is typically held during the Bayfair Festival on Mission Bay in San Diego.

    There are several road races including the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in June, the America's Finest City Half Marathon[26] in August, the La Jolla Half Marathon[27] in April, and several triathlons.[28]


    San Diego has several sports venues. From 1967 until 2017, the National Football League's San Diego Chargers played at Qualcomm Stadium, which also houses the NCAA Division I San Diego State Aztecs, as well as local high school football championships. International soccer games and Supercross events take place at Qualcomm where Major League Baseball was once played. Three NFL Super Bowl championships have been held there. One annual college football bowl game is held there: the Holiday Bowl, which currently features teams from the Pac-12 and Big Ten. From 2005 through 2016, the stadium hosted a second bowl game, the Poinsettia Bowl, but the organizer of both bowl games scrapped that game after its 2016 edition. Balboa Stadium was the city's first stadium, constructed in 1914, where the San Diego Chargers once played. Currently soccer, American football, and track and field are played in Balboa Stadium.

    Former teams

    Club Sport Duration League Venue
    Start End
    San Diego Rockets Basketball October 14, 1967 March 21, 1971 National Basketball Association San Diego Sports Arena
    San Diego Sails Basketball October 13, 1972 November 12, 1975 American Basketball Association Peterson Gym
    San Diego Clippers Basketball October 13, 1978 April 14, 1984 National Basketball Association San Diego Sports Arena
    San Diego Bombers Football 1940 1946 Pacific Coast Professional Football League Balboa Stadium
    San Diego Chargers Football 1961 2016 National Football League Qualcomm Stadium
    So Cal Scorpions Football 2003 2011 Women's Football Alliance Balboa Stadium
    San Diego Sting Football 2010 2016 Women's Football Alliance Carlsbad High School
    San Diego Fleet Football 2019 2019 Alliance of American Football SDCCU Stadium
    San Diego Riptide Indoor football 2002 2005 Arena Football League San Diego Sports Arena
    San Diego Shockwave Indoor football 2007 2008 National Indoor Football League Cox Arena
    San Diego Gulls Ice hockey 1966 1974 Western Hockey League San Diego Sports Arena
    San Diego Gulls Ice hockey 1990 1995 International Hockey League San Diego Sports Arena
    San Diego Gulls Ice hockey 1995 2006 West Coast Hockey League San Diego Sports Arena
    San Diego Mariners Ice hockey 1974 1977 World Hockey Association San Diego Sports Arena
    San Diego Barracudas Inline Hockey 1993 1996 Roller Hockey International San Diego Sports Arena
    San Diego Sockers Soccer 1978 1984 North American Soccer League Jack Murphy Stadium
    San Diego Flash Soccer 1998 2016 National Premier Soccer League Mira Mesa High School Stadium
    San Diego Pumitas Soccer 1999 2007 National Premier Soccer League Balboa Stadium
    San Diego Spirit Soccer 2001 2003 Women's United Soccer Association Torero Stadium
    San Diego Gauchos Soccer 2002 2007 Premier Development League Torero Stadium
    San Diego Sockers Indoor soccer 1972 1996 Continental Indoor Soccer League San Diego Sports Arena
    San Diego Sockers Indoor soccer 2001 2004 Major Indoor Soccer League San Diego Sports Arena
    San Diego Breakers Rugby 2016 2017 PRO Rugby Torero Stadium

    Note: Major league teams are in bold.

    San Diego has had two NBA franchises, the San Diego Rockets and the San Diego Clippers. The Rockets represented the city of San Diego from 1967 until 1971. After the conclusion of the 1970–1971 season, they moved to Texas where they became the Houston Rockets. Seven years later, a relocated NBA franchise (the Buffalo Braves) moved to town and was renamed the San Diego Clippers. The Clippers played in the San Diego Sports Arena from 1978 until 1984. Prior to the start of the 1984–1985 season, the team was moved to Los Angeles, and is now called the Los Angeles Clippers.

    See also


    1. "Are San Diego Sports Teams Cursed?". San Diego 6. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
    2. "History". San Diego Chargers. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
    3. Hanzus, Dan (January 12, 2016). "Rams to relocate to L.A.; Chargers first option to join". National Football League. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
    4. Wesseling, Chris (January 29, 2016). "Chargers announce they will stay in San Diego for 2016". National Football League. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
    5. Schrotenboer, Brent (January 12, 2017). "What we know about Chargers' move to Los Angeles". USA Today. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
    8. San Diego Gulls – History
    9. A not so silent minority
    11. "San Diego Padres owner among those interested in MLS franchise", ESPN FC, June 24, 2016.
    12. "Talking Points: Which cities will Major League Soccer expand to next?", ESPN FC, April 28, 2016.
    13. Creditor, Avi. "How does the Chargers move to LA impact MLS?". Retrieved January 19, 2017.
    14. "MLS commissioner Don Garber sees expansion opportunity in San Diego". Major League Soccer. 14 January 2017.
    15. "MLS chief Don Garber still hopeful on St. Louis, San Diego, Miami expansion". Retrieved January 19, 2017.
    16. "San Diego investment group unveils new Qualcomm stadium proposal". CBS. February 20, 2017.
    17. "Landon Donovan joins ownership group trying to bring MLS expansion team to San Diego. | FOX Sports". FOX Sports. March 3, 2017.
    18. "The Founders of San Diego NASL". San Diego NASL. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
    19. NASL (June 26, 2017). "NASL announces expansion club in San Diego for 2018 season". NASL press release. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
    20. De Crescenzo, Sarah (June 26, 2017). "North American Soccer League Coming to S.D". San Diego Business Journal. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
    21. "1904 FC Ownership Group Issues Official Statement on Tuesday". 1904 FC. February 27, 2018.
    23. "Southern California Rugby Football Union". Retrieved July 1, 2010.
    24. "OMBAC Rugby Home". Retrieved July 1, 2010.
    25. "About". Todd Clever. January 16, 1983. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
    26. "America's Finest City Half Marathon website". Retrieved July 1, 2010.
    27. La Jolla Half Marathon website
    28. "Triathlon website". Retrieved July 1, 2010.
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