With Los Angeles Football Club reaching the two-year anniversary on Sunday, it’s a good time to look back at the progress of the club, and what’s left to accomplish before the 2018 MLS season.
At the top of the list is the stadium. Terrific progress has been made on that front, from getting the final permissions to secure the site and legally be permitted to proceed with the project, to beginning the long construction process and getting a stadium sponsor at this early stage.
So the biggest task, continuing the process of building a soccer-specific stadium, appears to be on track and in good shape. Let’s look at the many other items LAFC has to do before March 2018:
- Academy: Another arena where major progress has been made, LAFC has kicked off play for their U-12 U.S. Soccer Development Academy team, have hired coaches and an academy director, and has initiated a partnership with Slammers FC to set up a Girls Development Academy program, to kick off next fall. This is infrastructural work that will continue for several years before it will likely bear much fruit, but it’s important to get off to a good start, and that LAFC have gotten it going before the MLS team starts play is a fantastic sign for the future.
- Training facility/club complex: The stadium may be the biggest land outlay for the club, but there is also the matter of finding and building a training facility and team headquarters. A site was reported to be in consideration way out in Orange County in Tustin, but the most recent indications were that LAFC would be finding a site in the city of Los Angeles.
- Colors and crest: These fundamental elements were unveiled in January, and have largely gotten good reviews in the meantime. The simple winged “LA” design has gotten traction, certainly in the soccer community, and made some inroads in a busy Los Angeles sporting and cultural landscape, too. Another massive item that’s checked off the to-do list.
- Hire on-field/off-field staff: The off-field staff continues to be bolstered by the club, with real roots being put down on that side of the organization. Meanwhile, there’s plenty to do for the on-field side of things, even in support roles like training, groundskeeping, scouting, etc. Aside from academy director Todd Saldana and the academy coaches, John Thorrington remains the only soccer hire to this point in the organization. Of course, that’s not necessarily a concern at this point. Expect far more moves to be made on this front to fill out the soccer side of the staff in 2017.
- Marketing and building community ties: In the main, LAFC have used a grassroots approach to marketing and building ties to the local community in the past year. Handing out LAFC baseball caps to famous people to spread the word around, leveraging the fame of some of the owners, especially Will Ferrell, holding meetings and events with supporters of the club, and working to establish the brand little by little has been the approach, one that makes a lot of sense, especially with no team hitting the field for more than a year to come. Expect more overt marketing to come in 2017, with more mass appeals to get the word out about the team with MLS right around the corner.
- Bring sponsors aboard: Work is already being made on this front, with the Banc of California stadium deal the biggest indication that the ownership group is going to use its collective business ties to make sure there is sponsored support. It’s possible, though not assured, a kit sponsor could be announced in the next year, for example.
- Sign players: It remains to be seen how and how quickly the club will move on this front, but following the example of the most recent brand-new expansion teams, LAFC will sign at least one player in the next 12 months. Chances are this will include a Designated Player, designed to both reliably contribute on the field but also to make a splash in MLS circles and well beyond. Apart from that, the roster will be nowhere close to complete, but it would be an absolute shock if there are no players officially aboard for 2018 by Nov. 2017.
- Hire a coach: The timing on this could be tricky, depending on who ultimately takes the job and his availability, but this is obviously a priority for the year to come, and will be a massive talking point until the hire is announced. A roster will go a long way to determining if LAFC can be competitive in its inaugural year and beyond, but the head coach will also set the tone, and you’ve only got one chance to make a good first impression. This will be one of the big themes for the next year, regardless of when the coach officially comes aboard.
- Determine USL and women’s pro soccer strategies: A lot of noise has been made on both of these subjects in the past year, and while they are secondary in many respects to building a stadium and creating an MLS first team, they will be concerns nonetheless for the club for the foreseeable future. Opting to punt on a USL team for 2017, LAFC will have to get an arrangement in place by the start of the 2018 season, as per the terms of the MLS-USL partnership, and will most likely be an affiliate agreement with an existing independent USL club. On the women’s soccer front, it’s a bit of a different story. If reports this year that LAFC are looking to bring an expansion team into the NWSL in 2018 are to be believed, they’ll need to start lining up their ducks in a row on that in 2017, with much of the work to take place in the fall of next year. Some of the infrastructural items will already be covered with the MLS project (stadium, academy, some support staff, etc.), but if 2018 is the target for NWSL entry, then late 2017 will be a very busy, albeit exciting, time for LAFC.
What do you think? What to-do items did we miss? Leave a comment below!