Soccer Academy and Pro Team Chooses San Diego Over Baltimore Peninsula, Sporting Venues Still “Top of Mind” at Development

| July 6, 2023 | 0 Comments

The Right to Dream soccer academy was eying the Baltimore Peninsula development in South Baltimore for a stadium, academy, and United Soccer League (USL) franchise, but instead the group moved its focus to San Diego where it was awarded a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise. Despite the setback, Baltimore Peninsula developer MaryAnne Gilmartin of MAG Partners told sporting venues are still “top of mind all the time.”

Right to Dream is owned by Mohammed Mansour’s The Mansour Group, which is one of the largest companies headquartered in Egypt. Right to Dream has academies in Ghana and Denmark, and others coming to Egypt and San Diego. It owns Danish Football Club FC Nordsjælland (FCN).

In 2022, Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott requested Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) to conduct a $62,000 study for the 10,000-seat stadium in Baltimore City for Right to Dream. MSA Executive Vice President Gary McGuigan told in 2022 that Port Covington (which has since been rebranded as Baltimore Peninsula) was the preferred site, but other sites could come up in the study.

The study was called off in January of this year as Right to Dream was no longer pursuing a stadium in Baltimore.

Mansour is teaming with Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation on new MLS team in San Diego. The partnership was award the team in May. It will play at San Diego State University’s new Snapdragon Stadium.

MLS is the highest level of soccer in the United States and USL is the second tier.

When asked about Right to Dream going to San Diego and if the Baltimore Peninsula development is still pursuing professional soccer, Gilmartin said, “I can tell you that there are sporting venues that are looking to be in Baltimore.”

She noted they are using the development’s 235 acres of land mass to lure such opportunities. “Without saying more than that, sports is top of mind all the time,” Gilamrtin said.

Right to Dream’s pass on Baltimore is the latest effort for high-level professional outdoor soccer in the city to fall through. Crystal Palace Baltimore, which was affiliated with English Premier League club Crystal Palace, ascended to USL Second Division and proposed a new stadium in Pigtown/Carroll-Camden Industrial Area in 2009, but the club dissolved in 2010.

MLS Club D.C. United looked at Baltimore as a location for a new stadium in 2009, but the team’s new ownership, which took over in 2012, returned the focus to Washington, D.C. and opened Audi Field in 2017. Victor MacFarlane, who is now a development partner in the Baltimore Peninsula development, was a co-owner of D.C. United from 2007 to 2009.

D.C. United is also looking at the Baltimore Metro Area for a DC United MLS Next Pro club. This is the third division of soccer in North America. This would likely be a 5,000-seat stadium for “developmental purposes,” according McGuigan. A $50,000-MSA study is currently looking at this possibility.

New amateur soccer club Baltimore City F.C., which played its home games at Banner Field at Latrobe Park, is hoping to ascend to the USL in the future. It recently won the Maryland Major Soccer League.

Baltimore is one of the largest cities in America without a professional outdoor soccer team at the USL or MLS level. USL has been targeting Baltimore for expansion since that late 2010s, but few details have emerged outside of the Right to Dream connection. Baltimore was ranked as the 10th best market in the United States for English Premier League soccer viewership during the 2021/2022 season. Baltimore has also been a top 10 market for World Cup television viewership.

Photo below courtesy of DUO Signage + Graphics 

Baltimore Peninsula Master Plan renderings courtesy of the Baltimore Peninsula development team

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