LAFC launches as Chivas replacement, new owners crowdsource stadium plans

The new Los Angeles MLS team that will replace the now-disbanded Chivas USA in 2017 now officially has owners (Vietnamese venture capitalist Henry Nguyen, 21 other guys) and a name (Los Angeles F.C., though that’s subject to change if and when everyone decides it sucks). Now all they need is a place to play:

Nguyen said the group intends to scour the greater Los Angeles area for the perfect stadium site, with that search beginning immediately.

“Really, that home, that stadium, is going to be a critical part of our early work,” Nguyen told reporters…

According to Penn, the group has an early budget of $150 million for the stadium plan and is seeking development sites of between 15 and 100 acres.

L.A. already has a soccer stadium, of course — the StubHub Center in Carson, where Chivas played and the Los Angeles Galaxy still do — but Nguyen and his partners say they’re going to fund a new stadium on their own, so hey, it’s their money. Assuming it really is their money, of course: Plenty of sports team owners have said they won’t ask for public subsidies and then do anyway, so we’ll just have to wait and see on this one.

Meanwhile, Nguyen and friends have broken new ground in at least one way, becoming probably the first team owners ever to crowdsource their stadium plans:

The club has set up a website (www.lafc.com) and a Twitter account (http://twitter.com/lafc) where fans are encouraged to weigh in with site recommendations.

It’s probably mostly a gimmick to build interest in their as-yet-nonexistent team — “Hey look, our fans are telling us where to build a stadium, this must mean we have fans!” — but sure, why not? Random fans can’t do worse than whoever is running NYC F.C.‘s stadium planning process.


24 comments on “LAFC launches as Chivas replacement, new owners crowdsource stadium plans

  1. With the CBA expiring, do owners of a non-existent team have any voice in negotiations?

    Watched a little of the NYRB v. SKC playoff game last night. Looked like a League 1 game with Thierry Henry in it. Winning goal was almost comedic—cross that hung in low orbit for 30 seconds that the keeper failed to claim, while nobody bothered to mark one of NY’s two scoring threats on the pitch. League-wide the level of play seems to be declining from a couple of seasons ago. Some of the teams were dreadful this year (Colorado, Chicago, San Jose). If the salary cap doesn’t move significantly from it’s $3M level, the league is going to be in trouble. Watching aging stars half-ass it isn’t really a good long term strategy for building a league.

  2. I don’t know if I agree that quality of play is getting *worse*, but yeah, it’s still not good. I loved the first Deadspin commenter: “That defense looked like the FIFA 15 defensive AI when someone plays it on amateur level.”

  3. They’re going to have to lure in better players than they have currently, that is clear. It’s worse for me as a fan of one of those pitiful teams to have watched it all season. And it’s just going to get worse with 2 expansion teams coming in this year. The dilution of the talent pool at the current salary cap level is really starting to impact the league.

    That said, with regard to LAFC, it does seem they have the resources to build this stadium themselves. And they have to realize that’s the only way its going to happen in LA. The strong indication is they already have their site however at the old LA Sports Arena location and that they’re going to play a year or two at the LA Coliseum while the new venue is being built. As for why they wouldn’t just play in Carson, that was part of what killed Chivas USA. When you’re the roommate of your supposed hated rival it’s hard to take a team seriously (in addition to the litany of other problems Chivas USA had). That and the Carson stadium site is terrible from a fan perspective. Putting a stadium right next to downtown will definitely be a better play for them if they’re willing to pay for it.

  4. “They’re going to have to lure in better players than they have currently, that is clear.”

    Why? Sure, everybody would like to have their local team playing in one of the top leagues in the world, but is that really necessary for the long-term survival of MLS?

    MLS is in an interesting position in US sports. Unlike baseball, football, hockey and basketball, it’s not offering the best product in the world. At the same time, US soccer fans have more access than ever to leagues that –are– the best in the world, so they’re well aware of the talent discrepancy. So, will fans be satisfied with a lower-tier league in the long run? Or, if things improve somewhat, will too many fans still think “yeah, but it’s still not the EPL”?

  5. Keith: Save for the MLS True Believers, most people know that MLS isn’t among the best leagues in the world. But—and I’m not sure what percentage of people this is—some fans have been supporting it out of this weird combination of obligation and hope that it would get better. And it has gotten better, until recently. And if franchise values keep going up but quality of play doesn’t, I’ll stop bothering.

    The question is how large is the segment of fans that are in the same boat. We’re enjoy the sport first and MLS second. And as you pointed out, we can find more than enough soccer to watch without giving MLS and time/eyeballs. If they’re not going to bother, we won’t either.

  6. My sense is that the MLS fan base goes: 1) people who know it’s crap soccer but just want to go to a game in person and that’s what’s available, 2) people who don’t know what good soccer is, so whatever they’re watching is fine by them, 3) families who got discounted tickets through their kids’ youth leagues.

    I am some combination of 1 and 3. (Used to be 2 and 3, but now I’ve watched enough World Cup and UEFA to know better.) If my son didn’t keep getting $9 ticket offers, I probably wouldn’t bother much with the Red Bulls.

  7. The MLS fan base actually goes: 1) People who care more about supporting the local club more than some team located thousands of miles away with no real impact on them.

  8. With the plans that have been leaked about playing in the Coliseum in the interim & the fact an EIR has been completed for the adjacent area on the USC campus (LA Sports Arena) it’s pretty clear that’s where they want to go.

    Admitting that would harm their ability to extract tons of concessions from the public, though, so they act like they don’t already have a plan. I hope the city doesn’t cave, but hey, all these rich investors could mean mucho campaign contributions for the decision makers, so don’t bet on them driving much of a bargain for Angelenos. Subsidies will be less obvious, but will still be there.

  9. I think the MLS has still failed to really carve an identity for itself. Are you a second-rate league that’s meant to attract family’s or are you competing with the big boys? We see that through cheap tickets, promotions, a lot of afternoon games….yet they sign Beckham and other aging stars under the ‘designated player’ rule. Are you a North American league or are you trying to bring the European model over? You have a draft, salary cap, and an all-star game, but yet your teams are FC this…and Sporting that…you have a transfer window and a designated player rule…..Either try and compete with the big boys, or know your role in the soccer world and embrace it.

  10. I don’t think any MLS fan expect the league to be competing soon with European leagues when the CL teams have team salaries of $200M vs $20M of MLS playoff teams.

    But I enjoy watching MLS games for the same reason I like watching college or high school sports. I like the competition. And I get to watch it in person. Plus, there are quality players in MLS who can still make plays that make you cheer.

    As for the new soccer stadium for LAFC next to the Coliseum, the stadium would be built on state land now operated by USC , so ownership of the stadium might be tricky and not worth the trouble.

    On the other hand, Kroenke of the Rams might still be moving out and he owns a swath of land in Inglewood and would need a tenant in his new football stadium if he ever moves and especially if the tenant is willing to chip in $150 M. If you have 22 owners, one more investor would not hurt…especially if he can provide the land for a new stadium.

  11. It’s easy being the top league in the world when no one plays the sport outside the US. As long as the league keeps improving demographics will do the rest. Also each generation of new players and fans won’t be lost to competing sports as long real soccer fans continue to support our american league.

  12. In addition to the above re:MLS problems don’t forget the single entity model, which is a) the complete opposite of soccer works in the rest of the world and b) leads to some WWE level of manipulation of designated players.

  13. I think college sports is the most apt analogue for MLS fandom. People absolutely love their college football teams, even though it is undoubtedly much worse than professional football. I’m watching a game right now where both quarterbacks have thrown incredibly dumb passes. Yet it’s a sellout crowd! Makes tons of money! There’s a genuine emotional connection there. You can get 100,000 people in some places to see kids play a game sloppily.

    Consider also that we’re not the only nation who has an inferior soccer league. There are only 3-4 top tier leagues, yet dozens of leagues flourish across the world, with good attendance and followings. Even second and third divisions do well in some countries. MLS also hasn’t come up on its ceiling for quality yet. They’ve gotten pretty far from where they started, and now with team academies and putting reserve teams in USL Pro, and much more television money coming in, MLS is poised to make significant growth in quality over the next decade. Definitely something for MLS fans to believe in. The fact you can go to a game affordably is a huge plus, and the fan culture is fun for people.

  14. I think college sports is a little different. NCAA Div.1 is the ‘best’ of the college level. The MLS isn’t the best of American soccer, but one of the lower leagues in terms of calibre for soccer in general.

    NCAA players are playing to make that transition to the NFL, NBA, NHL, even MLS.. etc…They are a developmental system and they know their role and embrace that. Fans can invest in a player emotionally and see a payoff from that player going on the the pros. There are MLS players that ‘graduate’ to euro leagues and bounce back and forth, but you’ll never see Peyton Manning or Andrew Wiggins being recruited to go back to college.

    This is where I personally believe there is an identity crisis. Is the MLS meant to ‘graduate’ players to the the Euro leagues (as I’m sure where most players would love to be) or is it meant to be on par with them? If it’s the latter you can see why there is criticism of the calibre of play. The lopsided victories and wobbly passes are excused in college sports because you know they are a developmental system.

  15. I don’t think it is anti-soccer to say that MLS is going to have trouble breaking its current ceiling.

    The trend in European soccer now is for concentration of power and wealth in teams that regularly participate in the Champions League. Leagues in Europe with historically strong team that were strong even a decade ago have been ravaged by this trend–Holland, for example. Even Italy’s league is much weaker. There are probably about 16 teams that play at a high level–max of 3-4 per country (England, Spain) and others with two or even one team, but they are forced in the current system to play much inferior small-town teams for historical reasons.

    MLS’s current trend to continue to expand might help with some TV dollars (tough in the US market to make similar money to football), but will probably result in a weak league few if any world-class competitive teams. It will be developmental in focus with a few stars–more like Holland, Denmark, or Poland–but these leagues also struggle in most cases with attracting the kind of fans who are willing to pay premium dollars for selling teams. If MLS can continue to have a good customer experience, that will help, but its hard to imagine an MLS team ever reaching the levels of a Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.

  16. “College football is “developmental” for at most 5% or so of players.”

    Not significantly different from the number of minor league baseball players who make it to “The Show”. Serves the same Darwinian purpose.

    “Is the MLS meant to ‘graduate’ players to the the Euro leagues (as I’m sure where most players would love to be) or is it meant to be on par with them?”

    I have a feeling that the goal of those running MLS is to eventually be “on par”. But continuing to expand is only going to make that pipe dream even more difficult to attain.

  17. “The MLS fan base actually goes: 1) People who care more about supporting the local club more than some team located thousands of miles away with no real impact on them.”

    And there it is… Are the hundreds of hours I’ve spent watching a team (and the corresponding irrational emotional attachment I have) somehow less real because the club is located in Europe? Such a baffling attitude, and one that actually makes it easier to tune out to MLS.

  18. I don’t think 24 teams is an unbearable burden though, considering that we’re about 5 times the size in terms of population to other countries that support 20. The talent will be diluted for a bit, but I think it will recover, especially with all the renewed focus on development.

    Regardless of whatever MLS execs say publicly, I don’t think anybody really thinks it’s going to be anything but a developmental league for at least a couple decades. There will not be a world-class MLS team for a long time, and nobody expects it. Becoming on par is a goal, but it’s gonna be a long climb. Graduating players is good for teams and the league, because of the money it brings in. Yedlin, a product of an MLS academy, is going to bring 5 to 10 million to transfer to Tottenham, and the club’s share can go to paying higher salaries or improving the team’s academy further.

    I think one of the biggest issues that MLS is going to face is whether they’re going to significantly increase the minimum salary, which is about at 35k. Having a better baseline is going to be key to motivating young talent to stay in the game.

  19. I just can’t watch MLS since I started watching the EPL regularly in 2004, it’s like watching AA or AAA baseball when MLB is easily available. Would I go if Memphis got a MLS franchise? Maybe, this was a NASL town in the 1970s and no one here had ever seen English or German soccer.

    Now, most people familiar enough with soccer to consider MLS has seen EPL, La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga or Champions League and MLS is nowhere near that level.

  20. Great discussion about MLS.

    I know MLS is not an elite league. I can and do watch non MLS matches on TV each week. But I am passionate about my local MLS club because they are my local professional club and the level of play is good.

    Real v. Barcelona is a showcase of the best the world has to offer. But is Cordoba vs. Elche better to watch than New England vs. Columbus?

  21. “Now, most people familiar enough with soccer to consider MLS has seen EPL, La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga or Champions League and MLS is nowhere near that level.”

    And did anyone expect it to be when those leages have been around for over
    100 years while MLS has yet to see 20? Those leagues also are the only sports in their countries. MLS has to compete with the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, college, etc. But MLS has an advantage. Those leagues are foreign. MLS is American. One day American fans will like soccer and want the the best clubs to play here instead of Europe.

  22. “And there it is… Are the hundreds of hours I’ve spent watching a team (and the corresponding irrational emotional attachment I have) somehow less real because the club is located in Europe? Such a baffling attitude, and one that actually makes it easier to tune out to MLS.”

    You are no different than the nerd who watches anime and thinks he knows everything about Japan. You are a cosplayer. You are pretending. Just like no guy in Liverpool is living and dying with every NY Yankees game, no Yank can be a true fan for a European club. You can be a casual fan, but not a real one. It is not our sports culture. Thankfully more American soccer fans are embracing local clubs. The Eurosnob is a dying breed and thank god. Nothing hurt soccer more in America than these fake accented fans. Ew.

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