LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles FC have colors, a crest, a stadium site and someone to lead the technical team two years before they will play their inaugural MLS match.
What's next? Plenty.
There are plans to have academy teams on the field by next fall, they're sorting through possible coaches and players, and they expect to break ground next summer on a stadium that will be built on the site of the Los Angeles Sports Arena, adjacent to the Coliseum in Exposition Park.
“We, of course, have some very big ambitions, but if you're going to build a great club, if you're going to win cups and win championships, you've got to have a process, you've got to have a culture, and that's what we want to establish,” managing partner Henry Nguyen said following LAFC's unveiling of their crest, colors and additional members of their ownership group Thursday at Union Station. “I think that's the unique opportunity of having this club built from the ground up.
“Obviously, so much of our focus has been on the stadium and what's happening as we build the identity of this organization, but this is the year as we get the stadium entitlements in place, as the shovel goes in the ground, we can start turning our focus toward the technical side of the our club, finding our technical manager – our coach – and then start building our roster of players that will represent the kind of culture and style that we want to play.”
LAFC announced their stadium plans last May, and Nguyen said the entitlements – governmental approval of environmental-impact reports and stadium design, primarily, but also infrastructural improvements and code compliance – ought to be complete in May. Then they can start tearing down the Sports Arena, an aging facility that sits immediately east of the iconic Coliseum.
“Summer, that's our plan,” Nguyen said. “We'll probably do some groundbreaking event [for the new stadium], or maybe even a demolition event around the old Sports Arena. It's a building with a lot of history, so we want to be respectful of that, too, and we want to make sure as we begin this new chapter that there's some continuity to what that particular plot of land is and where we fit in Exposition Park.”
He said the demolition process would begin shortly after the entitlements are improved and would take three to four months. Groundbreaking would follow.
“We've got to get our entitlements done,” he said. “We're most of the way there, but we've got to make sure we get through the entire process. Finalization of [stadium] design will be happening over the next couple of months, and once that happens, we'll start releasing the images and pictures of that.
“Once we get the stadium rolling, it's really about the technical side of the club – getting the culture right, getting the process right. That's what we're looking forward to.”
John Thorrington's appointment last month as executive vice president of soccer operations was the first real step on the technical side, and the former MLS midfielder said that an announcement of plans for an Academy was “imminent.”
“We have our academy designation already – that's a process where we had to apply to U.S. Soccer, we've met with them, and they are very excited about our plans and our vision for what we see for the youth players in L.A.,” he said. “Now we're in the midst of rolling out, starting with our coaching and then recruitment of players.”
Thorrington said the club is currently identifying potential academy directors and starting to hold conversations with them. He noted last month that there was no timeline for hiring a head coach for the MLS team, that “the decision of who our coach will be will be made when the right person is available.”
Nguyen said the club hasn't targeted specific players, “but I've heard a lot of rumors.”
“Obviously, we keep our ears open, we do a lot of work, we do a lot of background with the scouting work now, but it's a long process,” he said. “We're still more than two years away from kickoff.
“Obviously, this will start in earnest this year and, like everything, we want to make sure we build a foundation of a club that the city can be proud of, and that includes being a winner.”
- Learn more about LAFC at LAFC.com
Thorrington, who was slated to head Thursday night to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the MLS Player Combine, said there were ongoing conversations within the club about fielding a second team in the USL.
“Those are live discussions. Those are dynamic conversations,” he said. “Certainly, that's in our mind.”
Is it possible an LAFC II might play before the first team debuts?
“There's potential for that. We're not closed to that idea,” Thorrington said. “Everything we do will be done right. So we'll be protective of our brand, and when we make decisions, it will be with the confidence that we'll do it right.
“We have resources, we have options to build things like that, but we're only going to make those decisions when we're confident we can do it right.”