By J Hutcherson – WASHINGTON, DC (Feb 20, 2015) US Soccer Players – MLS has spent the last decade trying to divide interest in their league in Los Angeles. They’re hardly alone in trying to figure out the Los Angeles sports market. The NFL has been happy to use LA as an obvious option for years now. It’s a ‘when’ not an ‘if’ but so far the NFL has stayed out of LA for two decades. There are plenty of people who understand why it benefits the NFL to have the second biggest market in the countrywide open. For others, including the kind of billionaires that relocate their NFL teams, it’s the next stop.
The MLS expansion initiative doesn’t seem to have any stops. The gap in teams between MLS and the other American pro sports seems like a challenge for the league. Amid labor uncertainty and ongoing collective bargaining negotiations, MLS took time out to tell Las Vegas they wouldn’t be part of the next expansion. They didn’t close off discussions with Vegas, confirming once again that expansion will continue.
Doubling down in major US cities was in MLS plans from early on. There was the phantom NYC team, an option that existed prior to NYCFC becoming a reality. Of course, there was also Chivas USA. With that eventual failed expansion, MLS not only tried to subdivide the LA soccer market but to do it in the same stadium. LA’s second MLS team is now a work in progress, one that is open in their plans to outdo StubHub Center and what the Galaxy built over the last 20 years.
That’s what competition normally looks like in the same market. There’s rarely a simpatico understanding, instead quickly resorting to the “us and them” scenario that normally fuels any corporate rivalry. In the clearest terms, that’s what putting two of anything in the same market creates. It’s not as if professional soccer somehow discovered that having more than one team in the Los Angeles area was a realistic option. Every other league except the NFL has more than one team in LA and Orange County.
For the NFL in LA, the latest is a shared stadium an unlikely long walk from StubHub Center. The NFL’s Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers might want to build a football stadium in Carson. It’s a mammoth undertaking, one our own Jason Davis has already described as a modern La Bombonera. The home of Boca Juniors also features one side devoted to luxury boxes rather than stands. There’s also the comparison to Allianz Arena in Munich with plans to change the stadium’s colors depending on which team is playing. Of course, this is a futuristic stadium so the plan is to change the color of the seats inside the stadium.
As expected whenever talk of the NFL and LA is concerned, plenty look at this plan and doubt it will ever happen. LA is a threat as much as an opportunity, a way to remind other cities that they’d really prefer to keep their NFL team.
Regardless of what happens, the larger question is LA itself. As a sports market, it’s certainly not alone in having a large number of relocated fans of other teams. For the NFL, that keeps support of the league in place without needing an actual team. Whatever is left of the old LA Raiders and LA Rams fan base might look forward to a return of those teams, but LA isn’t about history. Few places are anymore. Instead, the NFL is looking forward. That’s part of the reason they’re being so careful with the LA relocation, since very few are talking about an NFL expansion. The league itself now controls the discussion, with more approval than normal for any team looking to relocate to Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, we wait on a second MLS team already promising big things. LA mark 2 might not be promising color changing seats, but they are talking about building the best soccer stadium in MLS. By extension and what StubHub already represents, that means the best soccer stadium in North America.
Fair enough, but that could quickly not be the best outdoor option in LA. A market that has so far relied on antiquated venues like the Rose Bowl or the LA Coliseum whenever they host a big outdoor event might have two purpose-built NFL stadiums. That potentially changes the scope of the market, even if the accent is firmly on ‘might’ and ‘potentially.’
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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