Magic Johnson, Will Ferrell - LAFC - at LAFC stadium groundbreaking
Idris Erba/LAFC

Castillo: LAFC's ambitious DP wish list part of the fun so far

LAFC probably raised some eyebrows yesterday with a new article on ESPN FC naming more specifically who they’re targeting as potential DPs. Club president and owner Tom Penn mentioned the likes of Wayne Rooney, Chicharito, and even Cesc Fabregas as possibilities – international household names.

That combination of unabashedly reaching for the stars – and candor about doing so – pretty well characterizes a chunk of the club’s vibe to date. While LAFC still don’t have much of a concrete team – or, rather, let’s say, as they continue to build – they’ve never been shy about sharing what they’re up to, even if it seems bold or like a big task.

The organization’s positioning itself as super L.A. from the get-go, and it’s turning out that way in a fun sense – super community-focused with a liberal splash of Hollywood flash to make things fun. (Right now they’re even sharing office space temporarily with Mandalay Productions, the company of movie-producing titan Peter Guber – who’s also a principal in LAFC.)

I recently got to spend some time with the crew as they worked hard near downtown LA on a typical day of building it all up. (Without giving away specific numbers, upon request let’s say season ticket sales, with still no first team to speak of, are very healthy.) Based on that, here are a few ways the near-future of the club is looking promising:

They’re already working with important segments of the community.

Here’s just one example. LAFC merchandise is limited in selection and availability right now, on purpose. Of course, you can get it on MLSstore.com – but in real life, their brick-and-mortar partner in Los Angeles is Niky’s Sports, a Latino, family-owned chain famous in the city for their grassroots success.

Their work with supporters is close to unprecedented.

We’ve gone over this in detail recently, but supporters have helped determine everything from the club’s colors to the actual stadium design. (Read more about their stadium involvement here and here.)

The academy’s looking solid.

It’s been a focus for John Thorrington, executive vice president of soccer, since he came aboard, and it’s already headed in a positive direction. The U12s have already started their season and, in their first outing, faced their rivals at the LA Galaxy – bagging both a 3-3 tie and a 4-2 win in a set of two games. Not bad.

Additionally, LAFC have recently inked a partnership with famed youth club Slammers FC – who helped develop current MLS stars like Sacha Kljestan, before shifting to girls’ soccer (Christen Press, anyone?). They’ll be heading up a girls’ academy, which – fingers crossed – might possibly hint at a women’s first team in the organization somewhere down the road.

They’ve got community stewardship and volunteer work baked in.

LAFC has been working with the Los Angeles Futbol Club Youth Leadership Academy (yes, sorry, those names in tandem are confusing), originally co-founded by Rich Orosco, the MLS team’s senior vice president for culture and community.  It’s an organization that empowers at-risk youth to organize and coach their own soccer programs, learning academic and job skills along the way.

The wish-list of potential signings isn’t that crazy.

Okay, maybe the changes for Luka Modric ditching Real Madrid right now are … slim, maybe, but in a city like L.A., you’ve got to aim high to drum up interest. LAFC is competing not only with the LA Galaxy, but also an entire, booming city full of entertainment options – and it doesn’t suit the city’s nature to do anything modestly, anyways. It also shows LAFC’s willing to take risks, something else that will work in their favor in a crowded market.

As the off-season draws closer and the new expansion team race heats up, any kinds of moves are making things interesting. For now, we’ll turn much of our attention to the two teams set to enter the league in 2017 – Atlanta United and Minnesota United. But in the background, LAFC will still be thinking big, and we’ll still be watching.

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