The power of the media is astonishing. For most of my 60 years, there seemed to be little interest in football here. Everyone was about the NFL, NBA and MLB. then, apple
For this reason, it was fascinating to talk with Andrew Vasiliadis, the owner of my hometown team, the San Diego Loyals. The Loyals are a Division II team that recently completed season two. Andrew Vasiliadis is the team chairman and is currently the youngest owner of the USL team.
This season The Loyal made it to the quarterfinals where he was knocked out by San Antonio. Fun Fact: His home field is Torrero Stadium at the University of San Diego where I attended graduate school. The loyal got me out for a game this season. It was my first professional soccer match. The energy of the crowd was astonishing. There’s something about the way soccer fans interact with the game on the field that makes the event seem more interactive than other sporting events. I was overwhelmed. The stadium was filled with families, couples, friends and fans. Game time flew by with the cheering of the crowd and soft lights as the afternoon faded and the beer kicked in.
So, here’s the deal with Andrew Vasiliadis: He’s smart, he’s driven, and he really loves football. Since he is the majority shareholder in Loyal, Andrew has control, although he listens to the minority partners and their advisors. Soccer, like all league sports, has its intrigue, and the way in which teams are selected for either Major League Soccer (Division 1) or USL (Division 2) is decidedly political.
Andrew is a talker, but he is both educated and outspoken in the way he explains, cajole and persuades. This interview was one of those where I had to listen very fast to capture the words, concepts and predictions.
The path Andrew took to get here was unusual. He was born to a father who was a footballer in Greece, but chose to leave football behind to pursue an education and career in the United States. Like many immigrants who had no choice but to succeed, Andrew’s father excelled and helped build a real estate dynasty. Andrew grew up with a soccer ball in hand, then coached at both The Bishop’s School and Francis Parker. He then spent 15 years in the nightclub and entertainment business, a sideline as a DJ and a secondary career working with destination music festivals. These jobs laid the foundation for how to manage a fan-based enterprise and how to build promotion that fans would want to return to often.
When the opportunity arose to join Landon Donovan and Lawrence Smith in bringing a professional soccer franchise to San Diego, Andrew was ready. He and his partners took over the team and were given the option of holding their first season in either 2020 or 2021. Andrew chose 2020. Loyal played its first game on March 7, 2020. The world immediately shut down the following week in response. For the growing coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 season wound up shortened and played over 16 games instead of the usual 34. Season 2 began in May of 2021 with the last game of the regular season to be played on 30 October. Because Loyal performed well, they advanced to the playoffs where they were immediately relegated.
Here are both video and audio formats of the conversation I had with Andrew. It’s almost like story time while listening to Andrew. I recommend the conversation and especially for those of us who don’t really understand the structure of the various leagues of major league soccer.
Andrew Vasiliadis is now planning the third season of USL Soccer here in San Diego. He is the young dynamic leader of an emerging team, so the loyalist has a lot in store for his future. They are building support in the community and converting holdouts like me into repeat attenders. Andrew has a purposeful sales force building up the ranks of his season ticket holders. Soccer feels like a revival meeting in some ways. Devotees are out in force, chanting, cheering and beating drums. Anything is possible for those who believe and remain faithful.