The power of the media is amazing. For most of my 60s, there seemed to be little interest in football here. Everyone was focused on the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Then Apple
For this reason, it was fascinating to speak with Andrew Vassiliadis, the owner of my hometown team, the San Diego Loyal. The Loyals are a Division II team that recently completed their second season. Andrew Vassiliadis is team president and currently the youngest owner of a USL team.
This season, the Loyals reached the quarterfinals where they were eliminated by San Antonio. Fun fact: Their home ground is Torero Stadium at the University of San Diego, where I graduated from. The Loyal took me out for a game this season. It was my first professional football game. The energy of the crowd was surprising. There is something about the way soccer fans interact with the game on the pitch that makes the event more interactive than most other sporting events. I was captivated. The stadium was packed with families, couples, friends and fans. Game time flew by to the cheers of the crowd and the dim lighting as the afternoon wore off and beers made their appearance.
So here’s the deal with Andrew Vassiliadis: he’s smart, he’s driven and he really loves football. Because he is the majority shareholder of Loyal, Andrew is in control, although he listens to minority partners and his advisers. Football, like all league sports, has its intrigue, and the way teams are selected for Major League Soccer (Division 1) or USL (Division 2) is certainly political.
Andrew is a talker, but he’s both educated and articulate in the way he explains, coaxes and persuades. This interview was one where I had to listen really fast to catch the words, the concepts and the predictions going by.
The path Andrew took to get here was unusual. He was born to a father who was a soccer player in Greece but chose to leave soccer to pursue education and a career in the United States. Like many immigrants who had no choice but to be successful, Andrew’s father excelled and helped build a real estate dynasty. Andrew grew up with a soccer ball in hand, then coached at Bishops School and Francis Parker. He then spent 15 years in the nightclub and entertainment world, with a side activity as a DJ and a side career working with destination music festivals. These jobs laid the foundation for running a fan-based business and how to create the hype that keeps fans coming back often.
When the opportunity presented itself to join Landon Donovan and Lawrence Smith in bringing a professional football franchise to San Diego, Andrew was ready. He and his partners acquired the team and had the choice of having their first season in 2020 or 2021. Andrew chose 2020. The Loyals played their first game on March 7, 2020. The world quickly came to a halt in the week next in response. to the burgeoning coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 season ended up being truncated and played out over 16 games instead of the usual 34. Season 2 began in May 2021 with the final game of the regular season on October 30. Because the Loyals performed well, they made it to the playoffs. , where they were quickly eliminated.
Here is both the video and audio format of the conversation I had with Andrew. It’s almost like story time listening to Andrew speak. I recommend the conversation and especially for those of us who don’t really understand the structure of the various major league football leagues.
Andrew Vassiliadis is now planning the third season of USL football here in San Diego. He’s a dynamic young leader of a promising team, so there is a lot of promise for the future of Loyal. They build support from the community and turn holdouts like me into regulars. Andrew has a determined sales force that strengthens the ranks of their membership holders. Football is in some ways like a wake-up call. The faithful are numerous, singing, cheering and beating drums. Anything is possible for those who believe and remain faithful.