DENVER - Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber today announced that the San Jose Earthquakes and the ownership group led by Lew Wolff and John Fisher will join the League and begin play in 2008. Wolff and Fisher are principle owners of the Oakland Athletic baseball club. The announcement was made during the Commissioner's State of the League address in Colorado prior to Thursday's Sierra Mist All-Star Game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
"This is a momentous day in the maturation of Major League Soccer," Garber said. "One, because we are able to reward the soccer fans of the Bay Area for their patience and complete our commitment to return a team to them. Two, because it shows how much the sport's credibility has grown in just two years time. The Earthquakes now have a solid foundation on which to build.
"We are thrilled to have Lew and John join the MLS family. They are great sports team operators and understand the market. They have become deeply committed to bringing the Earthquakes back to the Bay Area and have been working tirelessly during the last few years to find a stadium solution that will work for the team, its fans and the community."
San Jose will join the Western Conference, thus balancing the two conferences at seven teams apiece. The Earthquakes become the third team based in California, along with Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Earthquakes and Galaxy forged a memorable "Interstate 5" rivalry early this decade, and now that rivalry will soon resume.
"While we are thrilled to bring Earthquakes soccer back to the Bay Area, we want to make one thing very clear: this is the dawn of a new era for professional soccer in San Jose," said Wolff. "We join the MLS at a very exciting juncture in the league's - - and the sport's - - history in the United States. With the development of new soccer-only stadiums, expanded national television exposure and increased fan and corporate sponsor support, coupled with this area's cultural diversity and long-standing interest in soccer, we expect a very bright future for this team."
Wolff, who has invested in and shared the vision for San Jose's downtown renaissance dating back to the 1970's, also announced the Earthquakes, will seek to play their home games at temporary venues for the first two seasons. The temporary venues are currently being negotiated and will be announced in the near future.
Pending approval from the San Jose City Council, Earthquakes Soccer LLC has plans to build a new downtown privately-financed soccer-only stadium near Mineta San Jose International Airport. The stadium, targeted to open in 2010, will feature an intimate seating capacity of 18,000 to 20,000, and state-of-art technology and fan amenities. If city council members and the Wolff investor group reach agreement, the Earthquakes' new playing venue will mark the first outdoor stadium built in nearly 80 years in San Jose, the third most-populated city in California.
Major League Soccer's inaugural game was played in San Jose on April 6, 1996, as the San Jose Clash defeated D.C. United 1-0. The Clash became the San Jose Earthquakes before the 2000 season, winning two MLS Cup titles before relocating to Houston on December 15, 2005. The Earthquakes history has remained in San Jose in anticipation of the club returning to MLS, while Houston opened its own history book with an MLS Cup title in its first year. The decision to relocate the team to Houston was made when it became clear that there was little chance developing a financing plan for a new stadium in San Jose at that time.
Fans desiring more information on the San Jose Earthquakes or season ticket availability should visit www.sjearthquakes.com or the League's Official Website, www.MLSnet.com.