Over the last three-plus decades, Los Angeles has transformed into a soccer hotbed.
An international city, La-La Land has seen the soccer market take off after the 1994 World Cup and then continue to grow as the LA Galaxy launched one of Major League Soccer’s founding teams in 1996. Since then, the city has cultivated one of the most vibrant soccer cultures in North America.
With the World Cup so far from home this year, the Galaxy wanted to ensure that the Los Angeles community was still able to experience the thrill of the global event.
With this in mind, Brendan Hannan, the vice president of marketing, communications, and digital at the LA Galaxy, and Chris Thomas, the team’s senior director of digital media and marketing, met with Mundial, a soccer magazine, during a trip to London in December and decided to launch a collaborative project in honor of the 2018 World Cup.
Last month, the project came to fruition in the MUNDIAL x LA Galaxy Guide to the World Cup in LA, a robust and comprehensive guide to experiencing the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Los Angeles. To create the guide, Mundial sent staff members to Los Angeles to learn about the soccer culture in the city, and, in partnership with the Galaxy, work collectively to identify the best places to watch the World Cup, the best food to eat during the tournament, and other places to see around town.
This wasn’t the Galaxy’s first partnership with a soccer magazine. The team has previously collaborated with Howler, but decided to take a different approach leading up to this year’s World Cup, stressing a desire to stay innovative and continue to reinvent themselves as a contributing factor to the switch.
“We admired what Mundial has done and their view of soccer and their storytelling ability, so it was an opportunity for us to work with another group of inventive people in the soccer space and try to tell some unique stories about soccer in Los Angeles,” explained Hannan.
In addition to identifying the best locations to watch throughout the city, the Galaxy have hosted experiential events and watch parties as well. On June 23, the team partnered with Port LBC, a brand out of Long Beach, to launch a clothing collection and host a World Cup viewing party, soccer tournament, and street festival.
According to Hannan, the event was a success.
While the day was packed with entertaining games that included Mexico’s second victory in the group stage and Toni Kroos’ last-minute goal to lead Germany to a win against Sweden, there was the opportunity for attendees to play soccer and see some of the unique things that the Galaxy were doing to connect with the Long Beach community.
The Galaxy aren’t the only Californian MLS team that has worked to rally its community around the World Cup. The San Jose Earthquakes have opened their stadium to the public for every World Cup game (including the 5:00 a.m. games early in the tournament). During their watch parties, the Quakes have brought in food trucks and surprised fans with player appearances.
Initiatives like these are great ways to rally local soccer communities and get them excited about the World Cup, particularly in a year where the United States failed to qualify. The fact that more teams across the MLS haven’t capitalized on the global tournament is a missed opportunity, especially when the sport’s fandom is on the rise domestically.
The Galaxy have always focused on using community to grow the soccer culture in Los Angeles.
“[We’ve] always tried to find the most unique and memorable ways that we could highlight the sport and do it through the lens of Los Angeles,” Hannan said. “We want to make sure that we’re doing something that hopefully hasn’t been done before and that will provide people an inside look at soccer in LA and continue to try to take a sport that’s so global and inclusive and make it a part of [the community’s] daily routine.”
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Hannan considers Los Angeles to be one of the most passionate soccer markets in North America, and the city’s excitement around the World Cup certainly backs up that claim.
While the World Cup is in Russia this year, in just eight years the tournament will return to United States soil. Rest assured, through the unique passion, culture, and fandom, the Galaxy and Los Angeles soccer fans will be prepared.