Orange County Soccer Club secures one more year at Irvine Great Park

OCSC fans and staff gather outside of the Irvine City Hall to celebrate the city’s decision to keep OCSC at the Irvine Great Park for the 2023 season. Orange County Soccer Club | courtesy

Irvine unanimously approved the Orange County Soccer Club to play at the Irvine Great Park for the 2023 season after the club’s future was discussed and voted on at the Irvine City Council’s meeting Tuesday night, Sept. 13. 

OCSC fans flocked the Irvine City Hall to express their support for the club and sat in on the six hour council meeting. Fans were dressed in orange colored OCSC jerseys and held up scarves to support their club during the meeting.

The OCSC have been playing at the Irvine Great Park’s Championship Stadium for the past five seasons, winning their first ever USL Championship trophy in 2021. The club was fighting over the stadium for future seasons with MLS club Los Angeles Galaxy after they wanted to use the stadium for their LA Galaxy II side. 

The LA Galaxy made a surprising bid to have exclusive rights to the Championship Stadium on Aug. 4 for the LA Galaxy II. In a press release the following day, OCSC owner James Keston was stunned and disappointed, claiming the club was “now under attack.”

“We’ve heard rumors that they wanted to play some games [at the Championship Stadium] and have various events but never really anything solid,” said Chad Romiti, the director of public relations for OCSC. “It wasn’t anything to the degree where it was an exclusive agreement with AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) and the Galaxy to basically kick us out of that stadium.”

OCSC currently has access to the Great Park’s Championship Stadium for 18 home games a year. The city of Irvine provides the usage of the stadium to other professional soccer teams, like the United Strikers FC and the FC Golden State Force. 

The current model for the Championship Stadium states that professional soccer teams use the stadium for 40 days, while non-professional sports teams have access to use it for 80 days. The LA Galaxy’s proposal states that the LA Galaxy II team would use the stadium for 18 home games a year, but would free up 102 days of access for non-professional teams.

“(The LA Galaxy) are a billion dollar company owned by another billion dollar company, so we thought we had an uphill battle,” said Romiti. “In the Galaxy’s proposal, they talked about reimbursing the city of Irvine for loss of revenue if they decided to go with them. It would be like a minor league baseball team being replaced by another minor league team of a different organization.”

OCSC have played a huge role in the community by recruiting young players across Orange County to play for their youth team, OCSC II. Some players in their academy were also able to receive a full scholarship from the USL for being top academic scholars.

Off the pitch, OCSC have helped communities in Orange County with the Second Harvest Food Bank, the Great Park Neighborhoods community, blood drives, and vaccination clinics in Irvine. In Santa Ana, they were able to donate a mini soccer field and have an after school soccer league for 5-9 year-olds. 

Down at Camp Pendleton, they were able to create a league for on duty military staff and hold youth clinics for children of active duty military parents, creating a positive impact on the community outside of Orange County as well. 

The two USL Championship teams clashed to Orange County’s largest sellout crowd of 5,500 on Saturday, Sept. 10, just two days before the final Irvine City Council meeting. OCSC came out on top with a 1-0 victory, with their supporters showcasing signs with the phrase “keep LA out of OC.” 

“We were receiving support from fans across the country that we are bitter rivals with, like Phoenix and San Diego,” said Romiti. “We also received support from the Scottish champions Rangers FC, who flew a banner at one of their home games in support of our cause.

The USL Championship is the second tier of U.S. soccer, with MLS being the highest tier. LA Galaxy II are currently in the USL Championship with OCSC, but will be moved down to the new third tier, MLS Next.

OCSC have three more regular season games in the 2022 season, with their last home game of the season on Saturday, Oct. 1 against their southern California rivals, the San Diego Loyal.