Exactly one year ago today, a group of 22 owners announced to the world they would be starting a new MLS franchise.
LAFC, as they were tentatively known then and are officially called now, have reached one year of existence. In some ways, they've accomplished a great deal and in others, it appears little has happened, at least to the world at large.
Let's take a look at what's happened the past year for Los Angeles Football Club:
In addition to having a big launch event to say they were joining MLS, the 22-person ownership group has since expanded to 24, set up offices, hired some staff and begun getting out into the public, hosting roundtable events, meetings with nascent supporters, and talking periodically with media outlets.
They said they would ask for input regarding the team's identity, including the name and colors, something they've followed through with in recent months. They have announced LAFC will be the name for good, and held a social media campaign getting input on the team's colors, though they haven't yet announced any permanent color schemes as a result of that.
They've also begun taking deposits on season tickets, although no number has yet been released regarding the number of what the club is calling "LAFC Originals" so far.
Most tangibly, of course, they announced the location of a brand new soccer-specific stadium, in the city limits of Los Angeles on the site of the LA Sports Arena. The project is massive, between finishing the paperwork and studies required to finish the preliminary process, then demolishing and cleaning up the Sports Arena site, and finally constructing the new stadium. Anytime one talks to someone from the club, they are excited about building what they're calling a "cathedral" of soccer. But while there's plenty of action behind the scenes, on a public level, everyone is waiting for the active physical process of creating a stadium underway.
The change in the timeline:
When LAFC announced their creation last year, they said they were seeking to enter MLS in 2017, alongside Atlanta United FC. Their scarves said 2017 on them and everything.
But before long, the uncertainty about their starting date emerged. After a period where the deck chairs of MLS expansion teams were moving around, some with uncertain start dates aside from Atlanta, LAFC would begin in either 2017 or 2018, before reports seemed to coalesce around pushing back the start time to 2018.
The club did not officially confirm the start date on playing in MLS had been pushed back a year until they announced the name would remain permanently this fall. Almost as soon as that happened, a new report emerged, claiming the start date could be pushed back to 2019, although club representatives have vociferously denied this on social media. For now, it appears 2018 will be the start date, though uncertainty still hangs in the air at present.
Of course, the big element in all of this is the stadium. From day one (literally) owners have said they do not plan to play in a temporary facility before their stadium is complete. That means any significant delays in building the stadium could set the start date back more, if they stick to their word. Again, the layers of red tape and actual physical work to be done in tearing one facility down and building another on the same site won't be done in a day, and the logic of it certainly holds, even if it is disappointing to those wanting to see the team in reality sooner than later.
Grist for the hater mill:
LAFC is in a tricky position, no doubt about it. The second team in the local market, seeing the success, especially in recent years, by the LA Galaxy, and noting the multitude of failures by the the team they are effectively replacing in Chivas USA, LAFC have to find the right balance of appealing to supporters while not making the same mistakes of their predecessor, and not replicating what works for the Galaxy (since that probably won't draw many fans, either).
In this day and age where social media can amplify anything, if the right people are talking about it, LAFC's social media presence has been soundly mocked by hardcore American soccer fans and some media members - though it must be said, not those who identify as LAFC supporters.
To be fair, what would you do if you had three (or so) years to somehow attract an audience without having any players or games (or for most of the year, no official anything regarding an identity for your club)?
Still, some of the critiques raised on social media have been useful, others have been excessive, and others mean. The problem around MLS for LAFC at this point is that the meme that "LAFC have a shambles of a social media department" has stuck. No matter if a tweet or instagram post is innocuous, the neutral perspective is that it's all wrong, and that is something the club will have to contend with. I don't have an easy answer to solve such a problem, and there are going to be haters regardless, but if social media is the only day-to-day contact between the club and the rest of the world, and people are constantly dumping on it, it's something that needs to be addressed, even if opinions may only be changed incrementally.
We'll have more on LAFC's first year in Part II, coming later today!
What do you think? Leave a comment below!