The newest professional sports franchise in Southern California doesn’t have a name, a home, any players or even a coach.
But the fledgling Major League Soccer team does have a large and impressive ownership group with enough star power to make it stand out even in Hollywood, where the team’s chief investors walked a red carpet after Thursday’s introductory news conference.
Among the investors are former Lakers great Magic Johnson; baseball All-Star Nomar Garciaparra and his wife, women’s soccer standout Mia Hamm; and self-help author Tony Robbins.
“You have to look at them as a foundational group. They bring a whole set of skills that is extraordinarily unique,” said Mandalay Entertainment Chief Executive Peter Guber, co-owner of the Dodgers and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors who will be the new soccer team’s executive chairman.
The group also is exceptionally wealthy; it broke the MLS record when it paid just more than $100 million to join the league as an expansion team in 2017. It also committed to spending at least another $150 million to build a soccer-specific stadium with a capacity of about 25,000.
But there are almost as many questions surrounding the franchise as there are owners — and there are 22 of those.
Although the owners referred to the team as the Los Angeles Football Club, they said that was just a working title and not a permanent name. Same with the red-and-black color scheme, one that has already been overdone in MLS.
The biggest question, though, is where will the team build its new stadium?
“Priority No. 1 is that a great soccer club, you’ve got to have a great home. You’ve got to have a great stadium,” said Henry Nguyen, a Vietnamese American venture capitalist best known for introducing McDonald’s to his homeland. “That’s critical to our success. A lot of our efforts and resources and focus in this first year is really going out and identifying where that [will be].”
Nguyen, the managing partner of the team, has already relocated from Vietnam to Southern California, where he will work with team President Tom Penn, an agent, lawyer and former NBA executive, on the day-to-day management of the franchise ahead of its debut 2 1/2 years from now.
Conspicuously absent from Thursday’s event was any mention of Chivas USA, the team the league folded last Monday to make room for LAFC. That team was launched 10 seasons ago to appeal to the region’s Latino population by importing the iconic Chivas brand from Mexico to Los Angeles.
The idea failed miserably but MLS Commissioner Don Garber said he’s learned from that failure.
“This is a new strategy for Los Angeles and Southern California,” he said of the owners’ group, the most ethnically diverse ownership group in MLS and among the most diverse in U.S. professional sports. “We’re not looking for a team that will only be relevant to one particular member of the community.”