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History of Soccer in Los Angeles: MLS is here now, but there's more where that came from

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Sure, you know about what's going on at the MLS level, but what about the many other leagues and teams out there in recent years?

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Soccer is not hard to find in Los Angeles.
Soccer is not hard to find in Los Angeles.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout our series on the history of soccer in Los Angeles, we've seen pro leagues and clubs come and go. December 17, 1993 a little league called Major League Soccer was founded to help with the USA's bid for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and began play in 1996.

While we know that the league has lasted to the present, Los Angeles has had two teams at one point, and will again. But this isn't the story of the LA Galaxy, Chivas USA, or LAFC, this is the surrounding leagues and clubs. For an outstanding book on the beginning of MLS, check out Beau Dure's Long Range Goals: The Success Story of Major League Soccer.

At the end of the last decade of the 20th century, the country saw more clubs enter the lower leagues, such was the case in Southern California.

Although no teams have yet to join the revived NASL in the region, the USL has two teams in its current incarnation, well known to readers of this site is of course the Orange County Blues, beginning play in 2011 as the Los Angeles Blues before a rebrand to the current identity in 2014. And the LA Galaxy became the first MLS team to establish their own USL team in 2014 with LA Galaxy II.

In the PDL, teams such as the Southern California Seahorses, Fresno Fuego, Golden State Misioneros, OC Pateadores Blues and Ventura County Fusion exist to the present, while in past years we saw the likes of the Central Coast Roadrunners in San Luis Obispo, Fontana Falcons, Los Angeles Heroes, Orange County Blue Star, San Diego Gauchos, San Fernando Valley Quakes, among others, in the development league ranks.

Moving to other leagues, the Southern California Fusion played in the NPSL for two seasons, winning the overall title in 2007, and the current SoCal teams in the league are Deportivo Coras USA out of Riverside, FC Force in Imperial County, FC Hasental in Agoura HIlls, the San Diego Flash, and Temecula FC.

Then in 2009 Women's Pro Soccer finally came to the city with the Sol, a founding member of the Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) league. The club was led by Marta, the Brazilian legend, Shannon Boxx, and Stephanie Cox, two USA National Team players. They drew 14,000 in the WPS's first match, in Carson, defeating the Washington Freedom 2-0. They ran all the way to the WPS Final, losing to Sky Blue FC of New York 1-0. But the team and league didn't make it, and women's pro soccer is on a new top-flight league, the NWSL, which has no teams in the state of California through three seasons of play.

Southern California teams in the second-tier W-League, however, have found considerable success, as they have won four titles in that league, courtesy of the Pali/LA Blues. That club folded in 2014, and the only Southern California team left in the W-League at present is the Santa Clarita Blue Heat.

Another second-flight women's league, the WPSL, have also found some success in recent years. With a healthy crop of SoCal teams in the league in 2015, with the San Diego SeaLions, the Orange County Waves (who have since folded), and Beach Football Club winning league titles over the years. This year, SoCal FC, in their first season, lost in the title game.

Today, Cal South oversees hundreds of youth and adult amateur leagues in the area. Some of the old teams are still around in one form or another, and today the teams that mostly toil in obscurity get to play in the U.S. Open Cup from time to time. However, a large amount of new leagues, youth, amateur, and recreational make Southern California a hot bed of talent. That includes the academies. The growth of the game has been an amazing story, given its humble upbringings.

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