Sports in San Diego

Sports in San Diego includes two major league professional teams, several semi-pro, amateur, and college teams, as well as other sporting events. The most popular sports teams in San Diego are the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League and the San Diego Padres of Major League Baseball. Also popular are the college sports teams of the San Diego State Aztecs, which play in NCAA Division 1.

San Diego has previously hosted two teams from the National Basketball Association: the San Diego Rockets from 1967 to 1971 (now the Houston Rockets), and the San Diego Clippers from 1978 to 1984 (now the Los Angeles Clippers). San Diego has never had a National Hockey League franchise, but has hosted various minor league teams, including the American Hockey League's San Diego Gulls, which started play in 2015.

A surfer at Black's Beach.

Professional teams

Club Sport Since League Venue (capacity) Attendance
San Diego Chargers Football 1961 National Football League Qualcomm Stadium (70,561) 65,432
San Diego Padres Baseball 1969 Major League Baseball Petco Park (41,162) 27,103
San Diego Aviators Team tennis 2014 World TeamTennis Omni La Costa Resort and Spa (2,100)
San Diego Gulls Ice hockey 2015 American Hockey League Valley View Casino Center (12,920) 8,541
San Diego Breakers Rugby 2016 PRO Rugby Torero Stadium (6,000)

San Diego has the longest championship drought in the nation with at least two major-league sports franchises; dating back to 1963 (52 Years as of 2015), as well as being the largest United States city to have not won a Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals or any other Major League sports championship. Some fans believe that there is a curse on the major league teams in the city.[1]


Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres play in Petco Park. The semi-final and final games of the inaugural World Baseball Classic were played there in 2006, and an earlier round of the second WBC was held there in 2009.


The San Diego Chargers are a professional American football team based in San Diego. The Chargers compete in the National Football League (NFL). The club began play in 1960 as a charter member of the American Football League (AFL), and spent its first season in Los Angeles, California, before moving to San Diego in 1961.[2] The Chargers joined the NFL as result of the AFL–NFL merger in 1970, and play their home games at Qualcomm Stadium.

On January 12, 2016, the Chargers were given a one-year option to join the Rams in the Los Angeles area.[3] However, team chairman and CEO Dean Spanos announced on January 29, 2016, that the Chargers would remain in San Diego for the 2016 season.[4]

Team tennis

The San Diego Aviators of World TeamTennis (WTT) moved to San Diego from New York prior to the start of the 2014 season. They were formerly known as the New York Sportimes. They played their 2014 home matches at Valley View Casino Center. In 2015, they moved to Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad. In their first three seasons in San Diego, they finished with the league's top regular-season record twice (2014 and 2016), and won the King Trophy as 2016 WTT champions.

San Diego has had two previous WTT franchises. The San Diego Friars were a WTT expansion franchise that began play in 1975. They used the San Diego Sports Arena (now Valley View Casino Center) as their primary home venue but played some home matches at the Anaheim Convention Center between 1975 and 1977, before Anaheim got its own team in 1978. After missing the playoffs their first two seasons, the Friars qualified in 1977 and 1978, and were the 1978 Western Division champions, but lost in the quarterfinals. The team folded after the 1978 season. International Tennis Hall of Famers Rod Laver and Dennis Ralston played for the Friars.

In 1981, the Friars returned as an expansion franchise as WTT resumed operations rebranded as TeamTennis after a hiatus. After three seasons as the Friars, the team was renamed the San Diego Buds before the 1984 season. The Buds won both the 1984 and 1985 TeamTennis championships but folded following the 1985 season. Hall of Famer Rosie Casals was the Friars player-coach in 1983.

Ice hockey

San Diego has a long history of minor league ice hockey teams, starting with the San Diego Skyhawks that played in the Pacific Coast Hockey League from 1948 to 1950. Hockey returned in 1966 with the San Diego Gulls of the Western Hockey League, which were created by Robert Breitbard to have a tenant for his upcoming arena – now known as the Valley View Casino Center.[5] The Gulls soon grew a fanbase in San Diego, with averages of over 9,000 spectators. By 1971, the year Breitbard's National Basketball Association franchise relocated to Texas to become the Houston Rockets, the Gulls had attendances bigger than both the Rockets and the Californian National Hockey League teams, the Los Angeles Kings and Oakland Seals.[6] The Gulls ceased operations in 1974 to give way for the relocated San Diego Mariners of the World Hockey Association, which folded in 1977. Another Mariners team was one of the charter teams of the short-lived Pacific Hockey League that same year, being renamed Hawks in the following and last PHL season. The arena remained without hockey until 1990, when another San Diego Gulls team was founded in the International Hockey League (1990–95). After the IHL team moved to Los Angeles, another Gulls team played for over a decade in both the West Coast Hockey League (1995-03) and ECHL (2003-06). The current San Diego Gulls, of the American Hockey League, started playing in 2015, and are owned by the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.[5]

Semi-pro and amateur teams

Club Sport Since League Venue (capacity)
Old Mission Beach A.C. Rugby 1966 Pacific Rugby Premiership The Little Q
San Diego SeaLions Soccer 1988 Women's Premier Soccer League Manchester Stadium
San Diego Flash Soccer 1998 National Premier Soccer League Mira Mesa High School Stadium
North County Battalion Soccer 2015 National Premier Soccer League Del Norte High School Stadium
Albion SC Pros Soccer 2015 National Premier Soccer League Serra High School Stadium
San Diego Sabers Ice hockey 2001 Western States Hockey League Iceoplex Escondido
San Diego Surf Basketball 2009 American Basketball Association HourGlass Arena
San Diego Sockers Indoor soccer 2009 Major Arena Soccer League Valley View Casino Center (12,000)
San Diego Sting Football 2010 Women's Football Alliance Carlsbad High School


With the expansion of the National Premier Soccer League, the San Diego Flash saw the addition of the North County Battalion and Albion SC Pros in the 2016 NPSL season.[7] The San Diego SeaLions play in the Women's Premier Soccer League.


Rugby union is a developing sport in San Diego. The multiple clubs, ranging from men's and women's clubs to collegiate and high school, are part of the Southern California Rugby Football Union.[8] San Diego is represented in rugby by Old Mission Beach Athletic Club RFC (OMBAC).[9] OMBAC is the home club of USA Rugby's former captain Todd Clever[10] who played rugby professionally abroad for the Japanese Top League team Suntory Sungoliath. The USA Sevens, an event in the annual World Rugby Sevens Series for international teams in rugby sevens, was held in Petco Park from 2007 through 2009 before moving to Las Vegas for 2010. San Diego Breakers will begin play in the inaugural 2016 PRO Rugby season.[11]


The San Diego State Aztecs (MWC) and the University of San Diego Toreros (WCC) are NCAA Division I teams. The Point Loma Nazarene Sea Lions (Pacific West Conference), UCSD Tritons (CCAA) and Cal State San Marcos (CCAA) are members of NCAA Division II while San Diego Christian College (GSAC) is a member of the NAIA.

Team Sport League Venue (capacity) Attendance
San Diego State Aztecs Football NCAA D1 (Mtn West) Qualcomm Stadium (71,000) 32,406
San Diego State Aztecs Basketball NCAA D1 (Mtn West) Viejas Arena (12,400) 12,414
San Diego Toreros Basketball NCAA D1 (West Coast) Jenny Craig Pavilion (5,100) 2,257
San Diego State Aztecs Soccer NCAA D1 (Mtn West) SDSU Sports Deck 811

Sporting events

The annual Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament (formerly the Buick Invitational) on the PGA Tour occurs at the municipally-owned Torrey Pines Golf Course. This course was also the site of the 2008 U.S. Open Golf Championship.

The athletes from both countries following the 2010 Thorpe Cup

There have been two international track and field competitions at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista called the Thorpe Cup, which is an annual decathlon and heptathlon meeting between the United States and Germany.

San Diego is home to several premier amateur sports events, such as the San Diego Crew Classic, held in Mission Bay every spring and featuring 100 or more college and amateur crews. The amateur beach sport Over-the-line was invented in San Diego, and the annual world Over-the-line championships are held at Mission Bay every year. The San Diego Yacht Club hosted the America's Cup yacht races three times during the period 1988 to 1995.

San Diego is also host to the Bayfair Cup, a hydroplane boat race in the H1 Unlimited season. The race is typically held during the Bayfair Festival on Mission Bay in San Diego.

There are several road races including the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in June, the America's Finest City Half Marathon[12] in August, the La Jolla Half Marathon[13] in April, and several triathlons.[14]


San Diego has several sports venues. The National Football League's San Diego Chargers plays in Qualcomm Stadium, which also houses the NCAA Division I San Diego State Aztecs, as well as local high school football championships. International soccer games and Supercross events take place at Qualcomm where Major League Baseball was once played. Three NFL Super Bowl championships have been held there. Two of college football's annual bowl games are held there: the Holiday Bowl which features a Pac-10 team against a Big-12 team and the Poinsettia Bowl. Balboa Stadium was the city's first stadium, constructed in 1914, where the San Diego Chargers once played. Currently soccer, American football, and track and field are played in Balboa Stadium.

Former teams

Club Sport Duration League Venue
Start End
San Diego Barracudas Inline Hockey 1993 1996 Roller Hockey International San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego Clippers Basketball October 13, 1978 April 14, 1984 National Basketball Association San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego Gauchos Soccer 2002 2007 Premier Development League Torero Stadium
San Diego Gulls Ice hockey 1966 1974 Western Hockey League San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego Gulls Ice hockey 1990 1995 International Hockey League San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego Gulls Ice hockey 1995 2006 West Coast Hockey League San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego Mariners Ice hockey 1974 1977 World Hockey Association San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego Pumitas Soccer 1999 2007 National Premier Soccer League Balboa Stadium
San Diego Riptide Indoor football 2002 2005 Arena Football League San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego Rockets Basketball October 14, 1967 March 21, 1971 National Basketball Association San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego Sails Basketball October 13, 1972 November 12, 1975 American Basketball Association Peterson Gym
San Diego Shockwave Indoor football 31 March 2007 30 June 2008 National Indoor Football League Cox Arena
San Diego Sockers Indoor soccer October 13, 1972 1996 Continental Indoor Soccer League San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego Sockers Soccer 1978 1984 North American Soccer League Jack Murphy Stadium
San Diego Sockers Indoor soccer 2001 2004 Major Indoor Soccer League San Diego Sports Arena
San Diego Spirit Soccer 2001 2003 Women's United Soccer Association Torero Stadium
So Cal Scorpions Football 2003 2011 Women's Football Alliance Balboa Stadium

Note: Major league teams are in bold.

San Diego has had two NBA franchises, the San Diego Rockets and the Buffalo Braves. The Rockets represented the city of San Diego from 1967 until 1971. After the conclusion of the 1970–1971 season, they moved to Texas where they became the Houston Rockets. Seven years later, a relocated NBA franchise (the Buffalo Braves) moved to town and was renamed the San Diego Clippers. The Clippers played in the San Diego Sports Arena from 1978 until 1984. Prior to the start of the 1984–1985 season, the team was moved to Los Angeles, and is now called the Los Angeles Clippers.

See also


  1. "Are San Diego Sports Teams Cursed?". San Diego 6. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  2. "History". San Diego Chargers. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
  3. Hanzus, Dan (January 12, 2016). "Rams to relocate to L.A.; Chargers first option to join". National Football League. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  4. Wesseling, Chris (January 29, 2016). "Chargers announce they will stay in San Diego for 2016". National Football League. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  5. 1 2 San Diego Gulls – History
  6. A not so silent minority
  8. "Southern California Rugby Football Union". Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  9. "OMBAC Rugby Home". Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  10. "About". Todd Clever. January 16, 1983. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  12. "America's Finest City Half Marathon website". Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  13. La Jolla Half Marathon website
  14. "Triathlon website". Retrieved July 1, 2010.
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