When several dozen Salinas Valley soccer coaches gathered at a Mountain Mike’s Pizza one evening in early October, it was more of a plan than a reality: to build a new team that would compete in the United Premier Soccer League, whose best players go on become pros. The imagined team had no roster, no home field – and no name.
Toggling between Spanish and English, the team’s general manager, Jorge Rojas, said the struggle was to find a name and mascot that would encompass all of Monterey County. The Otters, for example, would be too coastal, especially since the local soccer talent largely springs from the Valley. Rojas liked the Panthers, which sounded appropriately vigorous, but it was already taken by Hartnell College’s athletics department.
A few weeks later, the UPSL announced a new member: Monterey County Soccer Club Jaguars. The choice of Jaguars was a nod to the Monterey Bay Jaguars, a short-lived 1990s professional team that played in Salinas.
The team is building its roster and will compete in the UPSL Wild West Division during the upcoming spring season. Two preliminary exhibition games are scheduled for Jan. 25 and Feb. 1. They will take place at the Alisal High School stadium, which has a 2,000-person capacity. (Rojas is the District 4 trustee of Salinas Union High School District.)
“We are getting a lot of support from the community and we are now looking for a sponsor,” Rojas says.
Just as Monterey County is set to welcome the Jaguars, another, higher-tier soccer team may also spring up locally. Technically, it would be a relocation: The Fresno Foxes, a United Soccer League club, announced in October it would leave the city because it couldn’t secure its own home venue, instead sharing a baseball field.
Almost immediately, various news outlets said the team was considering moving to the stadium at CSU Monterey Bay.
“We are in conversations with the ownership group of Fresno [Football Club],” university spokesperson Aaron Bryant writes by email, “but have nothing further to disclose at this time.”
The Fresno team’s owner, Ray Beshoff, could not be reached for comment, but a move to Monterey County would make sense considering his local ties. His daughters are co-owners of Joyce Wine Company in Carmel Valley.
The stadium at CSUMB is also the most obvious obstacle for a deal to relocate the team to Monterey Bay. The university’s own NCAA Division II soccer team doesn’t play there. It can’t. The field is all paved over and its primary function is to host the college’s annual commencement ceremony.
With a maximum capacity of 8,000, the stadium was part of the inheritance the military left when it shut down the Fort Ord military base in 1994. But like many things Fort Ord, the arena is in disrepair and cannot be used without major renovations.
“Like many of the buildings repurposed from the Army, structural, accessibility and purpose-specific upgrades may be needed,” Bryant writes. “The university has the stadium listed in the master plan but has not fully assessed the extent or cost of such updates necessary to meet CSUMB’s use standards.”