In Los Angeles, there are now two clubs fighting hard for the hearts and minds of the local soccer culture. The battlefield’s front lines currently exist on social media channels but are certain to be fought soon, face to face, mano a mano, within the boundaries of the touchline. It is a branding war. We have the incumbent, LA Galaxy who recently adopted the slogan “This is LA”, a possible reaction to the newest MLS franchise LAFC (Los Angeles Football Club), a club that currently lacks a stadium and team, yet has built a strong identity that has cemented a growing legion of loyalist fans, supporter’s groups and celebrity investorss. It’s a friendly, benign war that ultimately serves American Soccer very well. An invisible rivalry already exists between the two clubs, one that mirrors the Clippers and Lakers over who will truly own this city. It is an exciting time for soccer in America.
Ultimately this rivalry is great for the growth of our sport, both locally and nationally. More soccer, more competition and more choices will help make futbol America’s favorite sport. You’ll rarely see such an ambitious proclamation quoted, but this is the true aim of soccer illuminati who now see this time as their moment. America’s changing demographic, the decline of attendance in traditional American sports, growing distrust and skepticism over the sustainability of the bloodsport known as the NFL, are all contributing factors that potentially make room for international sport of soccer to one day soon take the helm. Although it’s been around for eons, American soccer is in it’s ground floor stage of entrepreneurial possibilities. One has to wonder if the founding of LAFC spurred the NFL to finally get its act together and commit to bringing moving a team here. The ink had not quite been dry on LAFC’s announcement when the LA Rams in a pure moment of “me too” announced their plans for a stadium in LA proper. Too little too late? Perhaps. The Rams is an old franchise that generates little excitement beyond simply satisfying a manufactured thirst for live American football in Los Angeles. It would be hard to determine whether this is the team the fans wanted or if the fans simply wanted a team, any team would do. People love their football and will for years to come, but this article is about who will lead the future and that is what soccer cognoscenti are currently betting on.
Growing distrust and skepticism over the sustainability of the bloodsport known as the NFL, are all contributing factors.
The Galaxy have owned professional soccer in Los Angeles since 1996 and this year will mark it’s 20th anniversary. They’ve held a justified monopoly with more championship wins than any other MLS team in the history of the league. They’ve entertained the world’s biggest clubs like Manchester City, Real Madrid and Manchester United. They’ve added world-class players, not all of whom were in the twilight of their careers, to their roster for fans to enjoy up close and personal. Is the MLS a retirement league? That is a question led by the decision making powers of each individual team. Without a doubt, it is becoming less so. Ultimately the desire for world class football, in what can be the world’s largest market will drive the development of the MLS. It should be noted that Galaxy’s recent acquisitions have really set a new bar for American Soccer. Never before have so many foreign luminaries been added to a single team. The Galaxy now boasts Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Giovanni Dos Santos, and most recently Ashley Cole and Nigel de Jong to their ranks. The American spine of the team is dwindling for the time being, but the quality football that this line-up promises will surely lift all boats in the years to come. The Galaxy couldn’t replace David Beckham with one superstar, so they’ve added several important faces that give the team a complexion of international stardom. Do Amerians need to root for American players for the sport to truly take hold of popular culture? Only time will tell.
It’s not just the Galaxy either, but clubs all over the MLS are bringing in superstars like Didier Drogba, David Villa, Frank Lampard and others who are not just iPhoning it in, but really playing with their hearts and souls and bringing with them a legacy of leadership heretofore absent in stateside soccer. LAFC is particularly interesting in this regard, as they are a blank slate with the collective billions of combined dollars of their impressive ownership group. Arguably even more important is the fact that they’ve embraced a more traditional branding approach that speaks to the heart and soul of soccer fandom. They don’t have a funny name, they’re named after a city – they don’t have flashy colors, but a brutally simple color palette that may as well be an involuntary wink to the Raiders of old (there hasn’t been a more rabid fan base in this city since that era, not even the Dodgers can compare).
Many will argue that the future of this sport relies solely upon the youth. The children are our future, no doubt. But soccer’s biggest opportunity to become the main sport of the land lies with the adults – that is where local clubs like Atlético Silver Lake have focused their efforts. You’re a kid for the first 18 years or so, yet you’ll spend the remaining decades as an adult with a sport you can enjoy and participate in. You can still play soccer well into your sixties. This is where soccer’s true advantage over all other sports lies – it is more than just pure consumption of entertainment, it is a sport that will still allow its players to chase their dreams. Generations can play together, without holding back. It is a sport where experience is on a level playing field with youth.