In the United States, there is a common misconception that Black people don’t play or even pay attention to soccer, and if you were to look through a generic lens of the American perspective on the sport, it would be easy to fall prey to this notion.
The two top sports leagues in the U.S. (NFL, NBA) are dominated by Black players. Many longtime U.S. Soccer fans admit that our best athletes don’t play soccer, our best athletes are not representing the country on the international stage and many of our best have simply been overlooked or fallen through the cracks of a flawed development system. One that encourages a pay-to-play model, where poorer kids (overwhelmingly children of color) have to miss out on developing skills at an early age, so they turn to other more inclusive sports within the U.S. recreational landscape.
The city of Atlanta has, for all intents and purposes, turned the entire soccer world (at least as it exists in the United States) on its unassuming head. Last year, Atlanta broke the Major League Soccer (MLS) record for attendance at a soccer match with a whopping 71,000 fans lining the seats, many of whom were Black. Atlanta also went on to win the MLS Cup in its inaugural season, setting the bar even higher for all new-coming teams to the league, most pertinently, LAFC.
The “Black and Gold” are currently in their first season as an expansion team and after disappointing losses to their cross-town rivals the LA Galaxy and a 5-0 thumping from aforementioned Atlanta United, look to regain form. In recent weeks, LAFC has a renewed sense of urgency to replicate the success of the league’s best, especially after coming off of a much needed 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps at the weekend. LAFC’s mantra has purposed itself as bringing a rejuvenated European style and perspective to club football in the United States. A style that is tactically sound and more exciting for fans. Manager, player and tactical selections were made with the European football model in mind for this reason, to bring an exciting style of football to Los Angeles proper.
LAFC head coach Bob Bradley, who coached the U.S. Men’s team to a last 16 performance at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, looks to reinvigorate soccer culture in Mid-City Los Angeles from the ground up. Bradley hopes to attract Black Angelenos, who have largely been overlooked in the L.A. soccer landscape. With investors aplenty, including former U.S. soccer legend Mia Hamm, comedian Will Ferrell and an extremely experienced leadership group at the helm, it should not be long before LAFC becomes the world-class football club it promises to be.