Last week, San Diego took an important step in its evolution as a city aspiring to host an MLS club, launching the Original Supporters' Group — a fan group created for a team that doesn’t yet exist.
Andy Altman handles marketing and social media for the Soccer City SD campaign working to bring an MLS team to San Diego. He notes the creation of the group came out of conversations with Landon Donovan, an investor and brand ambassador for Soccer City SD.
They wanted to unify supporters under a single banner to help with their efforts. “From the get-go, the plan has been to give this group to the fans to run,” Altman says, “But we wanted to get things kickstarted. So, we designed an OSG logo, created a jersey, and launched the signup drive.”
Altman sees a growing and enthusiastic OSG as instrumental in creating the team’s identity. “To help stoke support, we’ll be giving the OSG a very prominent voice when it comes to determining the team colors, logo, kit, etc.," he says. "We'll also be handing off control of OSG to the fans and letting them take control of their—and to some extent, our—own destiny,” including a name change for the OSG to something less generic and more tied to the team.
The $20 membership includes first access to season tickets should the campaign successfully bring a team to San Diego. It also comes with access to raffles, parties, limited edition supporter-themed jerseys, and other perks. It’s also, perhaps more importantly, a chance for fans to show their numbers, in lieu of racking up attendance numbers for a USL or NASL team, of which San Diego has neither.
Altman claims the group has already grown to nearly 2000 members, and while the majority of those are in and around San Diego, they’ve had inquiries from as far as Canada and Sweden.
Some on the initial OSG members are soccer fans holding out for an official San Diego team. Others back Liga MX team Xolos, based in just-over-the-border Tijuana. Some are even LA Galaxy fans who might find a San Diego location more convenient.
OSG member Brandon O’Shea, who has been a soccer fan since childhood, worked for the San Jose Earthquakes for several years, following college at UC Davis, before returning to San Diego. He currently goes to Xolos games, but is ready to pledge allegiance to a San Diego-based MLS team.
“The culture is second to none in the country,” he says of the city, citing youth soccer and a favorable TV market as elements making it MLS-friendly. “Also, Mexican fans I’ve talked to at Xolos games, who currently don’t have any interest in MLS, would come for our games. This could turn many new eyes toward the league.”
Launching OSG wasn’t Soccer SD’s first outreach to fans. Earlier this year, they held a contest for fans a to suggest a non-binding name for the potential club.
The winner in the March Madness-style bracket competition was “Footy McFooty Face,” originally submitted as a write-in entry from a number of fans inspired by a British government agency’s 2016 Internet poll. That effort, seeking the public’s help to name a research vessel, saw “Boaty McBoatface” win over more dignified boat names. According to Altman, Galaxy fans helped lift Footy McFooty Face to victory, inspiring his team to create a logo and a video apropos for April Fool’s Day.
If OSG is successful, it might be seen in the vein of other fan-led efforts to win or win back franchises, including the Sons of Ben in Philadelphia, instrumental in bringing the Union to the league. Soccer Silicon Valley, meanwhile, in the Bay Area, also successfully lobbied for the Earthquakes’ return after the origina club became the Houston Dynamo.
Soccer SD is continuing to organize events to bring OSG members together and maintain social media channels to keep them connected. But they’re also looking toward a November, city-wide election determining the future of a stadium project, and they see OSG involvement as crucial to those efforts.
“The OSG is essentially the way for people to help build the team,” Altman said, “from the ground up."