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.