New women’s pro soccer team in San Diego announces name

Former U.S. women's national coach Jill Ellis waves to the crowd in this 2019 file photo.
Former U.S. women’s national coach Jill Ellis, now the president of the San Diego expansion franchise in the NWSL, waves to the crowd in this 2019 file photo.

The San Diego Wave Futbol Club begins play in March 2022


There have been youth clubs in volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer and swimming named the San Diego Wave or Waves. There’s a collegiate summer baseball team and a minor-league basketball team, even a local men’s flag football team.

There have been men’s and women’s pro volleyball teams. In 1995, the San Diego Wave competed in a Southern California women’s ice hockey league. Two years later, the San Diego Waves were the first entrant in the National Women’s Basketball League.

In 2019, a trademark was registered for San Diego Wave and later abandoned when the women’s American pro football team never got off the ground.

The latest iteration is San Diego Wave FC, scheduled to begin play in March in the National Women’s Soccer League.

The difference: It belongs to the best league for its sport and gender in the world, and its owner is a billionaire.

The expansion club owned by Ron Burkle and operated by former U.S. women’s national coach Jill Ellis formally announced its name Tuesday morning, although it had leaked on social media three weeks ago. It’s the first in what should be a flurry of announcements over the coming weeks as the team unveils a crest, colors and jersey; the players who will wear them; and the practice and game venues they’ll call home.

Ellis said the name emerged from months of research that involved focus groups, questionnaires, polls and discussions with people inside and outside the sport. It is hardly novel to San Diego, but it does contain a few twists.

The FC stands for Futbol Club, a nod to the proximity of the Mexican border and deep Latino roots in the community. “Embracing our diversity,” Ellis said.

And Wave is intended to work on several levels.

“The first thing was, when you think about San Diego, what do you think of, what resonates?” Ellis said. “I like it because we are a coastal city and the water is such a vibrant part of this community. Also, just what the wave can represent, this idea of how we can be — the strength of the wave, the power of it, the beauty of it.”

The club is believed to be the first in professional sports largely (although not exclusively) run by women, from Ellis to Chief Revenue Officer Vanessa Shay to marketing director Ali Williams to head coach Casey Stoney.

“I believe our name strikes the perfect balance between representing our beautiful city and how we want to be a relentless force on the pitch,” Stoney said in a statement. “Wave FC will be a source of city pride for the community on and off the field.”

The plan is to hold a public launch next month ahead of the NWSL expansion and college drafts. Players would arrive Feb. 1, followed by a five- or six-week training camp.

There are also infrastructure decisions for a headquarters, practice facility and permanent home field. The Wave has only said they will start their inaugural season at USD’s Torero Stadium but has not committed to playing there all year.

One option is to build a soccer-specific venue, perhaps to capture the untapped North County market. Another is to move to San Diego State’s new 35,000-capacity stadium in Mission Valley scheduled to open in late summer, avoiding the fall fixture congestion from sharing a home field with a men’s pro soccer team (San Diego Loyal), two college soccer teams and a college football team.

The expansion draft is Dec. 16 for the Wave and fellow expansion franchise Angel City FC of Los Angeles. The Kansas City Current, which launched this season, is exempt from the draft, but the other nine teams can protect just nine players (and only one of the 22 whose salaries are paid by U.S. Soccer). The protected list is finalized Dec. 10.

The Wave and Angel City select one player from each team. The NWSL draft with college players is two days later, also in Los Angeles, and includes all 12 teams that will play in 2022.

The league does not have free agency in the traditional sense, but clubs can acquire unsigned players not available in either draft. They also are allowed up to five foreigners.

“We’ve had amazing interest,” Ellis said. “The agents have reached out. San Diego itself stands out as a massive draw because of the lifestyle and community and what it represents. Then you add to that our coach and the facilities and the resources.”