LAFC likes to pile on the riches. I don’t mean their star-studded ownership group, a state-of-the-art stadium or flashy international roster signings, all of which they have in spades. LAFC came onto the MLS scene in 2018 with a splash, but well before the club signed its first player, it had started its outreach to their community and amassed a culture around their franchise. In 2022, that fanbase, dubbed The 3252, one of MLS’ most vehement, most loyal, and most entertaining to behold, is being treated to not only the attacking style of play LAFC has always embodied, a first place standing in the Western Conference and guaranteed playoff spot, but also a string of stellar summer signings (11 players total in 2022) that pushes depth of their bench to a new level. If that doesn’t translate to an MLS Cup, there is a problem.
A unique soccer culture revolving around a franchise is something new to modern MLS expansion teams, and has helped LAFC stand out in Southern California. It began with LAFC embracing one of the essential elements of Los Angeles – celebrities. The ownership group, which includes Mia Hamm-Garciaparra, Tony Robbins, Magic Johnson and Will Ferrell, frequently catalyze the fan base with community events and have kept alive a charming Hollywood presence while not losing sight of the essential authenticity of soccer. Rather than dwelling on forging an Americanism and pushing away the global roots of soccer as many preceding teams had done, LAFC leaders looked to international leagues like the Bundesliga for what really is no secret there: fan community and passion is what makes a team outlast seasons and stars. Winning seasons may come and go, but regional connection withstands the test of time.
So, that’s exactly what LAFC has built. From their glitzy but edgy black and gold colors to their unapologetic branding by their streets team, they began marketing and involving their community well before the team ever began practicing. That sense of eagerness and almost an impatience to hit the ground running translated to the fans too. The 3252 was initially born from an amalgamation of multiple supporter groups like Black Army 1850, Cuervos, District 9 Ultras, Empire Boys, Expo Originals, The Krew, LAFC Luckys, Tigers Supporters Group, and Los Angelinos Originales. Each year the number of individual groups grows but they band together at gametime, singing the national anthem without music, and chanting for a full 90-minutes. One match will invoke in onlookers a spirit once thought was novel to European soccer culture. But it’s here in Los Angeles and it is authentic.
If the culture of LAFC and its fandom is the heart of the team, the lungs of it are the players. Carlos Vela has been instrumental in bridging passion in the fans with a passion on pitch. Over the years, he’s been MPV, goal scoring leader, and, when he’s not injured, essential to the success LAFC has had from the beginning. One of the MLS’ most popular sales year after year has been his jersey. Currently, his is third and first place goes to one of LAFC’s newest signings, Gareth Bale.
That legacy of desire to win and that assertive strategy on and off the field carried over to 2022. LAFC clinched a playoffs position in 25 matches, tying their own record set in 2019 for the fewest games needed to reach it.
Rather than rest on their laurels and continue relying solely on Carlos Vela to play the central figure in goal scoring, LAFC chose to bolster their coffers more this summer before the transfer window closed. Giorgio Chiellini, Gareth Bale, Sebas Mendez, Denis Bouanga, and Cristian Tello came onboard before the MLS Roster Freeze Date in September. Vela also re-signed as a Designated Player on June 28. LA’s expansion team is now second in the league for goals scored with 60 goals, 8 behind Philadelphia Union’s offensive powerhouse.
Bale, who is often on the bench and has started in just one of the nine matches, has played for merely a total 253 minutes. Chiellini has played 532 minutes and started in 7. To recap, LAFC had four depth squad players leave in the summer window but then re-signed Vela and added three players who can easily be starters, and one depth piece. But they weren’t finished yet. Tello, former Barcelona and Real Betis winger, adds even more scoring and starting possibilities for the remainder of 2022 with options for 2023/4, for free! Just in case.
Call it gluttony, overzealousness or just an eagerness to take the highest prize in the league, but LAFC are making themselves relevant and a force to be reckoned with. They’ve hit a few snags lately, especially on the road, so strap in for an unpredictable postseason ride and join the chants of The 3252 while you’re at a game for an added bonus.