By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Mar 15, 2023) US Soccer Players – While not everything about Southern California is perfect, for the most part, there are reasons it’s high on the list of America’s most desirable places to live. That’s extra true if playing soccer is your particular professional vocation. The weather, the lifestyle, and the potential to leverage the area’s status as a pop culture hub for greater fame and fortune make Southern California, and specifically Los Angeles, an easier sell for potential signings.
There’s an advantage to being based in Los Angeles, and defending Major League Soccer champion Los Angeles Football Club is making full use of it.
“In the LA market, you should be able to attract some of the better players that want to come to MLS, and they’ve been able to do that,” New England Revolution coach Bruce Arena said after his team’s 3-0 defeat to LAFC on Sunday night. Arena would know, having spent eight years coaching the LA Galaxy and winning three MLS Cups in the process.
For the current edition of LAFC, there’s Carlos Vela, Giorgio Chiellini, and Denis Bouanga. Vela joined as the club’s foundational figure ahead of its inaugural 2018 campaign, while both Chiellini and Bouanga signed in the summer of 2022. LAFC also scored the addition of Welsh superstar Gareth Bale last year. While Bale played only 13 games during his stay, he made a crucial contribution off the bench in last year’s dramatic MLS Cup final.
The Southern California advantage extends beyond the first team and big-name signings. It also applies to player development, allowing LAFC, and crosstown rival LA Galaxy, to benefit from one of the most productive regions of the country. But there’s still work to do for LAFC, both in coaching players to reach their full potential and in competing with the Galaxy and other clubs for the region’s top players.
To that end, LAFC announced a partnership with Bayern Munich on Monday called “Red&Gold Football.” Described as a joint venture with ownership split fifty-fifty, the project links the MLS club with one of the biggest clubs in Europe in a bid to maximize its development efforts. LAFC gets access to Bayern Munich’s vast scouting network, while Bayern will benefit from access to Southern California.
If this type of partnership with Bayern Munich sounds familiar, it should. FC Dallas had a working relationship with the German powerhouse starting in 2018 with similar goals. That relationship resulted in several Dallas-developed players making their way to Bavaria to start their professional careers and others getting a chance to experience Bayern’s academy setup during training stints.
Thanks in part to the FC Dallas-Bayern connection, the MLS club opened up a pipeline to Europe that established it as one of the preeminent talent developers in the Americas. Chris Richards and Justin Che moved directly to the German club, while several other FC Dallas products made their way to Europe.
While FC Dallas was already heavily focused on developing talent in-house when it joined up with Bayern, a relationship now over as confirmed by the MLS club, LAFC isn’t the same force in that area six years into its existence. In its short history, LAFC has made six homegrown signings. Four are on the club’s roster: Erik Duenas, Tony Leone, Christian Torres, and Nathan Ordaz. None has made an appearance for the first team, instead getting their competitive minutes on loan with the Las Vegas Lights of the USL Championship last year.
LAFC’s ambitions are clear. The club wants to win trophies every season. Playing in Los Angeles brings recruiting advantages, but those advantages also foster a demanding fan base with lofty annual ambitions. The quest for championships and LAFC’s ability to maximize the amount of talent on its roster under Major League Soccer’s restrictive salary rules could be boosted by players flowing in a Europe-to-America direction. The soccer world is getting smaller by the day, something both clubs involved seem to believe makes this partnership smart business.
LAFC is the reigning MLS Cup champion and Supporters’ Shield winner. Is “Red&Gold Football” what will add “elite talent developer” to LAFC’s list of accomplishments? Staying on top in a league like Major League Soccer might depend on it.
Jason Davis is the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.
More From Jason Davis:
- LAFC is the latest defending MLS Cup champion to try to add a Concacaf Champions League title
- Damir Kreilach at RSL and James Sands at NYCFC
- How Austin FC, Houston, and Sporting Kansas City’s losses in week one suggest more from those clubs
- Three clubs looking to take another step in MLS
Photo by LAFC