Last night, the Los Angeles Rams ended a 21 year drought of football with a sobering 28-0 defeat up north vs. the 49ers.
Not the greatest way to jump start a new era in the City of Angels, but the Rams have a lot to look forward to: Season tickets sold out in six hours, a 2.6 billion futuristic state of the art stadium is under construction in Inglewood, and public interest is soaring.
With the NFL moving back to Los Angeles, some have speculated that the Rams could spell trouble for the Galaxy, with the powerfully wealthy football league creating more competition in an already crowded sports landscape.
But are the Rams a real threat? Probably not.
Culturally, LA is an endless buffet of adventure. In a region with over 10 million people in Los Angeles County alone, where entertaining yourself isn’t a matter of what to do but what to choose from, one more sports team, even one as powerful as a NFL franchise isn’t going to rock the boat. I’ll spare you the god-awful cliche of how Angelinos could just as easily be surfing at the beach, but suffice to say, Galaxy fans shouldn’t be too worried.
And for the most part, the sports aren’t in direct competition with each other, as the NFL begins during the tail end of the MLS season. Furthermore, since the Galaxy own and operate the StubHub Center, they have the luxury of planning their schedule again of time to avoid potential conflicts.
That being said, this is concerning.
LA Galaxy vs Orlando MLS (Landon Donovan's return) averaged 97K on FS1 and 53K on Fox Deportes (yes, I know NFL was on that night)— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) September 13, 2016
As long as LA doesn’t play too many Sunday games next year, everything should be fine.
However, a real threat does exist to the LA Galaxy: Los Angeles Football Club.
Oh, in the short-term, the Galaxy will be fine. Despite their success this year, New York City FC has shown that no amount of glitz and fancy player signings can buy instant success, and if the Jersey team named after an energy drink known as the Red Bulls can manage to hold onto their fanbase, a club with as much success and history as the Galaxy should continue to ride that gravy train.
But not all good things last forever. Sooner or later Bruce Arena is going to depart the Galaxy organization, and despite laying down one heck of a foundation for the future, Arena is the bedrock of the club. Success after the most successful coach in league history takes off is anything but guaranteed.
And then there’s the stadium. Not so much the building itself, though Banc of California Stadium will certainly be a draw when it opens in 2018, but the location. From the moment LAFC officially kicks off, the club is drawing a physical line in the sand with a shiny object: A world-class, easily accessible arena that will incite soccer fans who already aren’t loyal to the Galaxy. And we already know LAFC is planning on spending the big bucks to acquire top talents.
Similar to the lure of the Staples Center, a downtown stadium has the potential to attract and connect with Angelinos in a way that no advertising campaign can compete with. And you can bet if the Galaxy reels and has a couple of sub-par seasons, that drive to Carson is going to seem a lot further away for some fans.
Hardcore Galaxy faithful may find solace in puffing up their chests and deriding LAFC and their fans as phonies, and as The Dude would say, that’s their opinion.
But let’s not kid ourselves: LAFC is no Chivas USA, and they are going to provide real competition for the Galaxy in the years to come.