It's been one year, and MLS expansion side LAFC have gotten some things done since announcing their arrival 365 days ago.
Building a professional sports team is not easy, especially in a city like Los Angeles. But there are still just a few items on the agenda for the club to do before they can kick off for the first time.
In no particular order:
- Build a stadium: This one's a biggie, probably the biggest of all. They've found the site and were far enough along in the process to line everything up to announce it earlier this year, but there's years of work left to go to make this a reality. If/when this is fully in place, it should help the club put down roots and really establish itself as a permanent fixture in the area and in MLS.
- Fill out the off-the-field staff: The club has been hiring personnel little by little the past year, but there are a lot more positions to fill over the next few years to get a team to run. On the business, communications, marketing, editorial side, video, etc., more hires will be coming.
- Hire all of the on-field staff: Coaches, GM/sporting director, scouts, facilities management, grounds crew, equipment managers, medical staff, massage therapists, nutritionist, and other jobs need to be filled. None have as of yet.
- Set up the academy: A hot topic among hardcore observers, the club say they are working on it but want to do their homework first. Personnel will need to be hired, infrastructure built (literally and figuratively) and contacts in the local youth soccer ranks established.
- Market the club in an effective manner: Los Angeles likes winners, and that will need to be part of the equation, but in a busy market, the club will need to do their part on a widespread and consistent basis to get the word out. One wouldn't expect an aggressive push to come until the final months leading up to the team's debut, but it is essential work and needs to be done well in order to land in LA and help the team get off the ground with strong support.
- Establish a community presence: The club has already started doing this, but ramping up involvement in cultural and philanthropic events will help them actually establish roots in the community, instead of simply going through the motions of what pro sports clubs ought to do.
- Sell merchandise: One year on, and no swag for folks to buy. One expects this to change when the colors and crest are revealed, which could be in the coming months, but even if it can only be scarves and shirts at this point instead of kits, at least giving supporters a way to represent the club around town would help get the word out.
- Release official colors and crest: A no-brainer, of course. Expect this to be coming soonish.
- Figure out USL situation: The only two expansion teams in the era of the MLS-USL partnership to date have had affiliations with independent clubs in their first season, which makes sense on a lot of levels. LAFC have far longer to prepare than any other MLS expansion team to date. Will they establish an affiliation to start, or set up their own LAFC2 club? It is obviously secondary to building the MLS team, but they ought to not shirk this task altogether.
- Sign players: If the team will begin play in 2018, the earliest year we'll hear of player signings will be the year before that, realistically, so this is down the road but obviously pretty important when the reason for all of this is to play soccer games in MLS.
- Bring sponsors aboard: A source tells me the club is already hard at work at this, naturally, but having sponsors and corporate partners are important on the business side for obvious reasons and also helps establish or reinforce a club's brand, for better or worse. Given the connections of some of the businesspeople in the ownership group, one expects some pretty important sponsors will be signing deals with the club.
- Consider involvement in women's soccer: Co-owner Mia Hamm gave a little hope for those hoping to get top-flight women's soccer back in the area when she mused it would be great if LAFC could set up a women's team the day the club was announced. Is the club serious about making that a reality? If they have the will and resources to make it happen, it could be pretty exciting. But it's unlikely to be something at the forefront right now and it seems unlikely they would even consider trying to launch MLS and NWSL clubs around the same time. Still, it could be a very special element of the club if they did have a women's team.