San Jose’s In For Earthquakes

Less than two years after the San Jose Earthquakes hit the road for Houston, major league soccer is headed back to the city with a new expansion team and discussions of a new stadium under way.

Anschutz Entertainment Group moved the Earthquakes, which had been playing at San Jose State University’s aging Spartan Stadium.

"It is with great regret that we were unable to find a solution to our facility issues in San Jose," AEG President Tim Leiweke said in a statement at the time. "It was not for lack of effort."

It was an unprecedented move for MLS, but the city of San Jose signed a letter of intent at the time to receive an expansion team in 2007 and retain the Earthquakes’ name, logo, colors and records, thereby cementing the league’s return to the region.

And when the time came, Earthquakes LLC, a group led by Oakland Athletics owners Lew Wolff and John Fisher, stepped up to the plate and purchased a team.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced July 18th that Wolff and Fisher understand the region and under their ownership, a stadium solution in San Jose is near.

"They are great sports team operators and understand the market," Garber said in a statement. "They have become deeply committed to bringing the Earthquakes back to the Bay Area and have been working tirelessly during the last few years to find a stadium solution that will work for the team, its fans and the community."

Pending approval from the city council, Earthquakes LLC will build a privately financed 18,000- to 20,000-capacity soccer stadium in downtown San Jose, the statement said, set for a 2010 opening.

Wolff told the Los Angeles Times it was Phil Anschutz and Tim Leiweke of AEG who opened his eyes to consider investing in an MLS team.

"Three or four years ago, Tim Leiweke asked me to attend a game down at the Home Depot Center as a guest in Mr. Anschutz’s box and sit behind him," Wolff said. "He’s always been quite a quiet person. I was sitting behind him watching this game and he was extremely animated.

"It surprised me and I thought, ‘There must be something to this game that is really intriguing.’ I called my partner, John Fisher and said, ‘You know, we ought to start taking a real look at soccer.’"

The Earthquakes will begin playing in 2008. The addition of the team to MLS balances the Eastern and Western conferences at seven teams each.