SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — San Diego FC, MLS’s 30th franchise, which will start playing in 2025, broke ground Thursday morning for its Right to Dream Youth Development Academy.

The facility will be built on the Singing Hills Country Club, land owned by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, part owner of the team.

“This is a foundational moment for our Club. Our performance center and Right to Dream Academy will enable us to develop future generations of world-class players across greater San Diego,” said Tom Penn, CEO, San Diego FC. “This groundbreaking initiative reaffirms our commitment to create opportunities for young talent to flourish and our vision to become the epicenter of football excellence and innovation in North America.”

Penn told Border Report the academy will welcome and develop talent from both sides of the border.

The Right to Dream Academy will have five full-sized soccer fields, including three natural turf fields and two synthetic turf fields. It will accommodate students between the ages of 12- 18, spanning grades six through 12. (Courtesy: San Diego FC)

“We’re going to recruit the best from the broader region,” said Penn. “This region includes all of San Diego County and across the border in Tijuana, because we are within 50 kilometers from the border, we can recruit 50 kilometers into Mexico, so we’re going to have a binational academy, the best 12-year-old boys and girls, mixed here developing through their middle school years and into high school.”

Tom Penn is San Diego FC Chief Executive Officer. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

Penn says the Right to Dream facility will be operated by the team and will run it like a private school with its own curriculum and a holistic approach.

Upon finishing the 12th grade, students will be guaranteed free college tuition if soccer doesn’t pan out.

“If they don’t develop as much as they want on the pro side or if they choose to rather go in an educational pathway, they will receive a full scholarship, they’re a ‘right to dreamer’ and we help them progress on their pathway whether it’s education or the pros.”

Thursday’s groundbreaking was a special moment for the Sycuan Tribe.

Sycuan Chairman Cody Martinez. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

“This is a proud moment for the Sycuan Tribe and a giant step in serving the next generation of young athletes and future leaders throughout the San Diego community,” said Sycuan Chairman Cody Martinez.

Martinez added he and fellow tribal members are happy the academy will recruit south of the border, which is also considered traditional Kumeyaay land.

“The Kumeyaay Nation goes well into Mexico 60 miles and we have a number of villages, so there is quite an opportunity to develop youth in Mexico, youth here in the United States and we can’t wait to scout Native America as well.”

This Right to Dream Academy will be the fourth franchise worldwide.

Others are located in Ghana, Egypt and Denmark.

According to the club, the academies offer “a unique model of talent development by way of its holistic approach of character building, football development and focus on education. Unlike the traditional U.S. pay-to-play model, Right to Dream San Diego is a scholarship-based academy whereby all enrolled, residential athletes will receive full five-year scholarships regardless of football performance. Upon completion of the project, San Diego FC will become the first MLS club to offer a privately operated school combined with a residential football academy.”

The academy is expected to be finished in early 2025 with the first class arriving for classes and training in that fall of that year.