Why the NWSL Shouldn’t Buy in to L.A.

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With rumors swirling about an NWSL expansion team in Los Angeles, questions have risen about whether or not the city is capable of sustaining a professional women’s team.  As an Angeleno, I am more than aware of LA’s capacity to embrace its sports teams, and on paper Los Angeles looks like an ideal city for an expansion team to thrive: money, fame, glamour, the proverbial limelight, etc. I mean, population theory alone suggests LA is a city that would be difficult for the NWSL to ignore. But, even with that being said, the city simply is not ready to fully embrace a new women’s professional soccer team.

For the most part, LA is a great sports town. We have two NBA teams, one WNBA team, two NHL teams (if you want to count the Ducks), two MLB teams (if you want to count the Angels), two MLS teams (Mia Hamm, I see you girl with that partial ownership of LAFC), and we have just recently resumed our on again, off again love affair with the NFL. Not to mention the sports pedigrees of UCLA and USC.

Again, the presence of these teams seems like an amazing selling point. Hey look at all these sports teams with sports fans they like sports right?

Except for one HUGE issue: most LA sports fans don’t actually like LA sports.

Okay, maybe I’m speaking in hyperbole, but the point I am trying to make is this: LA “fans” predominantly go to games for two primary reasons that take precedence above the love of the game. And that is to either be seen/be a part of the LA scene, or to be a part of something historic. Just ask the Clippers. They will always play second fiddle to the Lakers because you simply aren’t going to brush arms with the likes of Jack Nicholson at one of their games and they don’t have 16 championships. Or consider my own personal experience from a UCLA men’s basketball game where they were hosting the University of Kentucky (not rivals per se, but a lot of history, think Norway vs USWNT), where the focus could not have been any further from the actual game being played. No one around us knew the first thing about NCAA men’s basketball and 90% of the attention was on Alessandro Del Piero, Chloe Moretz, and Shaq, the first two of which have absolutely no ties to UCLA, UK, or basketball for that matter. This only highlights my point that the motivation for going was not to witness the sport first hand but to be seen on the scene, ultimately established by UCLA’s historical significance (11 national titles).

The problem is that this type of mentality would likely prove detrimental to an expansion women’s team because of the extreme unlikelihood that a new team could offer any form of similar appeal from day 1.

(Full disclosure: the majority of above does not directly apply to most Kings fans. They love their sport, their team, and likely wanted to go to fisticuffs after reading the above… sorry.)

Another issue that a new team would undoubtedly face is stadium location. The problem with Los Angeles is that public transit may as well be nonexistent and it’s an absolute nightmare to get anywhere. So you better have a damn good reason to go anywhere, otherwise it’s just not worth it, which is potentially extremely problematic in drawing new fans, depending on where the games are played.

This is where the prospect of partnering with an MLS team could prove make or break. A partnership with LAFC poses far fewer transportation problems than partnering with the Galaxy.

LAFC stands to have not only a top of the line stadium, but one that is conveniently located and can be reached by that nonexistent metro system. The Galaxy on the other hand, play in Carson, CA, which I believe to be approximately 1,000 miles from Los Angeles. At least that is what it feels like in traffic. And the fact that I have to sit in traffic and drive so far to a game means that I either A.) can’t have a beer at the game or B.) will end up paying $40 for an uber or lyft to the game each way. Now, there is the possibility that this might not be a problem, because the Galaxy do sellout frequently. However, the Galaxy have 5 MLS cups and have/have had the star power of David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Giovani dos Santos, etc. Implying you basically need a Marta, an Alex Morgan, and a Christine Sinclair to start winning immediately for a team with Galaxy ties to mimic the success of the men’s team, which is an unlikely prospect at best.

The last issue that no one seems to be talking about is how the city is overly sexualized, thanks in large to the entertainment industry, and how that can lead to extremely sexist tendencies.

Example: The Lakers were the first team in the NBA to create a cheerleading squad (today known as the Laker Girls). Yes, the people of Los Angeles were so bored with watching players like the legend, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, that in 1979 they had to place dancing girls in tight, sexy outfits on the court to entertain them.

Another example: The most recent soccerrelated example I can give is when I attended the MLS Cup in 2012. It was David Beckham’s last game and I was so psyched because I knew I wanted to buy some LA gear to prove to everyone that I was cool and was at the game (do you see how awful this city is?), and the only shirt I could find in a women’s size was a navy Vneck that read “Hate to See You Go, But Love to Watch You Leave.” Clearly hinting at the fact that David Beckham is considered to be an attractive dude and that I, as a female, must love his ass, instead of the game of soccer.

I’m not saying that sexuality can’t or shouldn’t play some role in selling tickets, but I am nervous that the LA market will take this to an extreme that will prove to be unhealthy for the league and the game.

In the end, I selfishly hope that I am wrong about everything and Los Angeles provides a kickass team that obliterates my expectation, but the NWSL needs to at least consider and navigate the hurdles outlined above.

At least, that is what I’m hoping for. So please, Los Angeles…”Carli Lloyd” me. Prove me WRONG.

5 thoughts on “Why the NWSL Shouldn’t Buy in to L.A.

  1. I suppose a comparison group would be the WNBA in terms of how women’s professional sports do in big vs. small markets. I have no idea how those teams fare or why but that might provide some clues as to Los Angeles vs. Sacramento or possibly San Diego as expansion choices for the female sports market. I mean, soccer is big in this city (I am a lifelong baseball fan and it galls me to see so many fields ruined by overuse as soccer fields but the torn-up state of the grass on those fields certainly proves that there doesn’t seem to be enough soccer fields in the entire county) so it should be a decent choice and the women’s national team is near unstoppable compared to the very average men’s team (why those guys gets so much more money is baffling to me), the fanbase for women’s soccer is pretty big everywhere I think.

    Los Angeles is a victim of its own success as the author points out, we already have so many pro teams, 2 of almost everything if you include Orange County (and you sort of have to when you consider one of the initial locations for the returning Rams was going to be lunar farside, otherwise known as somewhere out in Pomona, as well as the Carson location), not to mention popular beach and skiing locations. It’s hard for L.A. to keep interest in a team if it isn’t winning most of the time (this ain’t Chicago with the infinite patience of Cubs fans), the Clippers will realize that truism (again) in about 3 years. But that success actually worked in our favor, we got the Rams back and didn’t have to buy half/all of a new stadium to get them, either. The reason that L.A. has been without an NFL team for so long is because we refused to subsidize a new stadium and because of that stance we avoided having the Chargers or Vikings or who knows what.

    That may be the solution, too. I don’t know how the women’s pro soccer season aligns with NFL but if there’s not much overlap, I could imagine an expansion L.A. women’s soccer team benefitting from calling the eventual Rams stadium/entertainment center/hotel complex/space station its home – top-flight facilities, plenty of post-game win celebration/loss binge drinking choices, close proximity to the by-then finished Crenshaw Light Rail line.

    Probably not, it’s more practical to put any new women’s soccer team in with the MLS expansion team that will play in the new stadium being built on the corpse of the old Sports Arena next to the Expo Light Rail line and Coliseum (not the greatest place to park based on my old memories of attending Raiders games), though I think the Rams location would provide much better advertising and support (that place is going to make the Staples Center/L.A. Live location look like a lemonade stand), there’s not much to do around the Coliseum after the game’s over (though the Expo Light Rail line terminates in Santa Monica). Just spare us all the Carson location, please (unless they get a Metro Rail line station, too).

  2. This article provides one fans’ perspective. One opinion. However, the MLS has been rapidly changing. The MLS is looking into entrance fees into the league of almost $200 million dollars. The league has only been in existence for 20 years. That’s amazing growth and results of the demand and statistics that proves that professional soccer on the men’s side is becoming stronger.

    Who’s to say that residual attention cannot be a benefit to the NWSL? The commissioner of the NWSL supports joining MSL + NWSL teams together and has publicly stated so. The NWSL has been around for a couple years now and that’s due to superb tight budgeting and the success of the USWNT. So, yes, most women sports do not profit, if any, but hopefully their budgeting has shown MLS teams the prospective of a cost effective endeavor. I’m not sure if this exact moment with LAFC in infancy, Galaxy spending much money on retiring players and the RAMs in town…is the moment to usher in a team…and oh yeah, that unfortunate Olympic performance. It still stings.

    Now let’s focus more on location. Maybe not right in the heart of Los Angeles but what about utillizing facilities in Orange County? Instead of taking a negative look, which is easy, I would like to see in the article ways that we can promote growth of women’s sports based on your experiences in LA instead of throwing in the towel. That being said, we can stereotype the entertainment capital of the United States. There’s agruments for and against this type of city. Depends on what day of the week and who has found work.

    With much money around Los Angeles, who holds the buying power in households? Women. What sports fans say they need to ask their wife first in buying decisions? Many. Many sport apparel companies recognize this and may be Sport Organizations can create focus groups and calibrate. I know the NFL has done so.

    Next point, is attracting fans with the Talent on the pitch. There are several prominent developmental academies in the area. Recently, LAFC paired with the Slammers. A Nike Sponsored club that holds many accoloades. Additionally, Galaxy joined in the second wave of announcements of growing more girls’ academies in the US and specifically utilizing the hotbed of talent in OC. US Soccer Federation, beginning in 2017. will be able to bring some additional structure which I believe could provide a platform for good exposure for an NWSL. They are also many players in NWSL and USWNT who I believe would happen champion the efforts of a profressional Women’s Team in LA….and may be that flashiness of Los Angeles and the growth of the MLS in Los Angeles would be an extra incentive?

    P.S. Add some Commas in your article for those grammar hounds.

  3. This is wonderful and insightful and perfect. This contributor knows their shit.

    Also, I am a non-sports liking female living in Los Angeles who recently became a fan of women’s soccer, and being it’s literally the only sport I like, if the NWSL doesn’t listen to this I will help LA in the effort to Carly Lloyd you.

  4. I would love to see LA host another WoSo team but I don’t think it’s meant to be. In 2010 the Sol had the highest avg attendance in the league with just over 6000 per game. In the Home Depot/stub hub center. No wonder AEG, one of the largest entertainment producers in LA, dropped the club mid season. It’s just a money pit. I really do think that in order to have a successful team in LA the NWSL would have to partner with the Galaxy and have some big home town names come play (press, engen, Morgan–kind of, anyone?) to draw crowds. At least, crowds large enough to sustain a team.

  5. “Carli Lloyd” me. OMG, love it.

    This entire article is spot on. LA is basically the worst for all the reasons you mention above. And it has a bit of a feel like “been there, done that” as it relates to WoSo. I don’t think giant markets are best for soccer in general or for women’s sports in general. Why not make it easier for yourself, NWSL, and target markets WITHOUT a ton of competition for entertainment dollars? If they want to go Cali, they should set their sights on Sacramento. Hell, maybe even Oceanside or somewhere that’s populated yet less traffic-clogged and less superficial than L.A. A lot of people in San Diego (Oceanside) have disposable income and if they want to go after the youth market that NWSL seems hell bent on , it may have some potential since there are presumably lots of rich parents there. That being said, I would still pick Sacramento over S.D. by a mile, but would pick pretty much anything over another L.A. team.

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