When thinking of Southern California, it’s all too easy to think about it as the stereotypical “glamour spot”. A place of celebrities, sun-drenched beaches, luxury homes, iconic locales… but like anywhere, it has its fair share of problems.
Just recently a new, hitherto unrecognised issue came to light.
It all started shortly after Major League Soccer team Chivas USA was plucked from the grasp of Jorge Vergara and put up for sale by the league. Initially, an owner struggled to be found and as a result, the team was put on hiatus.
After a short period on the shelf an ownership group came along. But not just any ownership group. Truth be told, “group” was an understatement. When the collection of individuals was introduced, it started off with the usual mundane set of faceless businessmen, but as they went down the list, other more recognizable names came to the fore: Mia Hamm, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Will Ferrell, Vincent Tan, Mia Hamm’s husband, the 2014 Cast of SNL, the surviving competitors from the 1992 WWF Royal Rumble, everyone who took part in last year’s LA Marathon, everyone who watched last year’s LA Marathon, the existing line-up of Slipknot, the existing line-up of the Polyphonic Spree, everybody who has ever worked on a movie involving Samuel L. Jackson, the Kids from Fame, Henry Nguyen, David Guest… the list went on*. By the time they were done, the club had more people on its list of owners than were in the stadium for Chivas USA’s final game.
The announcement then came that due to Chivas USA’s brand having more baggage than an international travelling luggage salesman, the new ownership horde would be folding the old team and starting anew with a club named “Los Angeles Bland”, or something. Oh that’s right…. “Los Angeles FC”. More commonly marketed as “LAFC”. A team who’s name is so nondescript that its initials are actually more interesting.
All that was left was to determine the team’s colors. Luckily, someone from the LAFC’s fledgling front office passed by a thrift store that just happened to have a batch of discarded LA Galaxy 2012 black and gold third kits in stock.
It wasn’t until the teams venue was announced (a new stadium next to the LA Memorial Colliseum on the site of the Sports Arena) and season ticket deposits were being collected that the horrifying truth was revealed.
14,000 deposits to date.
Given that since 1996, Los Angeles had been home to an increasingly high-profile and successful soccer team in the LA Galaxy and for a little under a decade, the aforementioned Chivas-themed forerunner to LAFC, it made no sense that this groundswell of support had not previously been seen at MLS matches.
There could be only one explanation: a previously undiagnosed pandemic of people who can’t find their way from Downtown LA to Carson.
To the average person, there was little difficulty to this. Simply hop on any southbound freeway that intersects with the 405 South and follow the signs for Avalon Boulevard.
Yet here we have thousands of people for whom this simple journey was too much.
It makes the demise of Chivas USA all the more heart-wrenching. We all jumped to the same conclusion: CUSA are only drawing 8k per game because they suck. And yet unbeknownst to us all, there was a hotbed of soccer fanatics, presumably driving around Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Expo Park and Inglewood, aimless and lost, thumbing their smartphones, trying to find their way to this Soccer City that boasted not one but two teams!
What we need are volunteers. People who can pick up these lost souls and usher them southward to a place where soccer is already being played.
As much as we want Neo Chivas to succeed, they are already under threat of being swamped by zombie-like soccer-starved hordes. No less than six Supporters Groups have been formed by individuals who only just realised soccer in Southern California was a thing.
MLS history has shown us that two or three groups is about as much as a club can handle, without mutual mistrust and one-upmanship threatening to disrupt the balance, causing the supporters groups to implode, leaving nothing more than an attendance comprised of well-mannered families and the sheer horror of sustained Mexican-Waves.
We must act. We must let the directionally-challenged footy fans of Los Angeles know… they’ve already got a professional team.
*Note: Not all of the “owners” listed are actually part of LAFC’s Ownership Group… I got bored reading the Ownership page on their website, so I made some up.