After major doubts, Orange County SC will be back at Championship Soccer Stadium in 2023

Quick Hits
  • After last week’s vote from the Irvine City Council, Orange County SC will be back at Championship Soccer Stadium in 2023
  • The LA Galaxy submitted a competing proposal to secure the facility for their second team LA Galaxy II, which was ultimately rejected by the city
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After a unanimous vote from the Irvine City Council last week, Orange County SC was granted the right to remain at Championship Soccer Stadium for the 2023 USL Championship season. The club’s tenancy had come into question in recent weeks after LA Galaxy submitted a competing proposal to secure the facility for their second team, LA Galaxy II.

City documents established that the Galaxy hoped to gain exclusive tenancy of the stadium, which is owned by the City of Irvine, at the expense of Orange County SC and any other professional organizations. The Galaxy, whose youth-focused second team plays at a closed facility in Carson, guaranteed to compensate the city for any lost revenue from the tenancy change. Beyond the desire to use Championship Soccer Stadium for LA Galaxy II, it seems the club hoped to expand their youth operations across the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

According to Orange County SC, the City of Irvine broke off negotiations over the venue in the Spring after a round of local elections. 

Meanwhile, the Galaxy began to reach out around the same time. As first revealed by Owain Evans of PHNX Sports, representatives of the MLS franchise entered into conversations with Irvine as far back as March 14. At that point, the conversations centered around Championship Soccer Stadium and the broader Great Park facility as a potential training ground for visiting nations during the World Cup in 2026. 

However, those discussions quickly turned towards LA Galaxy II taking over the stadium, and this dialogue continued into the summer before the club’s talks with Irvine became public ahead of an August council meeting.

The discussion of the stadium at that meeting was delayed after public uproar, but Orange County SC won out at last week’s rescheduled council meeting. On September 13, the club’s fans contributed to a public comment session that lasted nearly four hours. The weekend prior, Orange County sold out Championship Soccer Stadium and defeated LA Galaxy II in league play, providing a stark contrast between a packed 5,000-strong crowd and the closed-to-the-public Galaxy II matches.

Though the decision to extend Orange County’s tenancy is a massive boon for the club, their right to the stadium only extends through 2023 for the time being. It’s also important to note that Orange County SC may not exactly be a model tenant for the city. They draw more fans than Galaxy II, but the Irvine City Manager asserted that the club has been late on 94% of their rent payments since 2019. Time will tell if the Galaxy renew their effort to occupy Championship Soccer Stadium and the conflict may be far from over.

On the pitch, Orange County will hope to recover their 2021 USL Cup-winning form as they start fresh in the next campaign. After earning just 14 points in their first 15 games this season, the defending champions have stabilized. Though in last place in the Western Conference, their minus-nine goal difference isn’t the worst in the West, which indicates that they’ve had some poor luck in 2022.

Striker Milan Iloski, added in the offseason, leads the Golden Boot race with 20 goals this season and his prodigious right foot can be the building block for a full recovery. In recent weeks, manager Richard Chaplow simplified Orange County’s system into a deep-sitting 4-3-3 to ease the load on an error-prone defense and open space downfield for the star forward to use on the dribble. His unit has earned 1.57 points per game in the last two months after garnering just 0.91 in their first 20 matches.

With the stadium question sorted for now, Orange County SC has the chance to build back to their previous heights. They still maintain one of the USL’s most robust youth systems and they’ll have the chance to deepen the roots of that academy within Irvine and Orange County. A permanent, privately owned stadium solution is the ultimate goal, but short-term solidity and the chance to rebound on the pitch in 2023 are far from the worst-case scenario imagined in August.