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The Bandwagon Fan's Guide To The L.A. Football Club, As They Compete For The MLS Cup

Two dozen men with a range of skin tones wearing black shirts and hats with gold lettering stand with their arms in the air on a platform in the middle of a green soccer field in front of a banner that reads "Western Conference Champions 2022" in front of a row of stands filled with fans in the background at Banc of California Stadium in South L.A. One man in the center holds a silver cup trophy above his head as the other men cheer.
Carlos Vela #10 of LAFC holds the Western Conference championship trophy as he celebrates with teammates after defeating Austin FC, 3-0 at home.
(Kevork Djansezian
Getty Images)
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The LAFC lads will take the pitch on Saturday at the Banc to battle for the MLS Cup.

If any of those words made you feel like you just got nutmegged (a soccer dribble that slides the ball between the defender's legs and makes them lookfoolish), there’s no need to fear. The LAist sports guy (that’s me!) is here. Keep reading and let me explain.

The Basics

The Los Angeles Football Club will play the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at 1 p.m. They are fighting for the league championship, the MLS Cup. The match is on their home turf at the Banc of California Stadium, in Exposition Park in South L.A.

The stadium, which fans often refer to as “The Banc,” is also the home of the National Women's Soccer League’s Angel City FC. That team is L.A.’s newest sports franchise and is partially owned by Natalie Portman, Jennifer Gardner, Eva Longoria, Candace Parker, Mia Hamm, and a whole bunch of other cool folks, but I digress.

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Three soccer players on the field as the one in a black jersey dribbles the ball.
Christen Press #23 of Angel City FC moves the ball down the field ahead of Yazmeen Ryan #23 of Portland Thorns FC during a game in April.
(Katharine Lotze
Getty Images)

Will I Have To Sell My Car To Go To Saturday’s Game?

How much is your car worth?

Single tickets were going for around $250 as of Friday morning across three major secondary ticket market vendors. The most expensive ticket on Stubhub was $2,970.

How’s Parking?

Good thing you sold your car for that ticket — there will be nowhere to put it near the stadium. And that isn’t hyperbole. Here’s LAFC’s statement on the parking situation (very intense emphasis not mine):

Due to a USC football game at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum also on Nov. 5, alternative parking and transportation measures will be in place and enforced.


What Makes This Team Special

LAFC was founded in 2014 and played its first season in 2018. The club is the most valuable U.S. Soccer team, worth $900 million dollars, according to Sportico. The second most valuable team is their crosstown rival, the L.A. Galaxy, valued at $865 million.

The Galaxy played their first season in 1996 as one of 10 original teams in the MLS. The club plays at the StubHub Center in Carson and has won the league championship five times (2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, and 2014).

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A soccer player with dark-toned skin raises his arms to either side and looks upward in front of goal.
Denis Bouanga #99 of Los Angeles FC celebrates the winning goal by Cristian Arango #9 against Los Angeles Galaxy on Oct. 20.
(Kevork Djansezian
Getty Images)

The last showdown between the two teams was two weeks back when LAFC faced off against the Galaxy in El Tráfico (a play on Spain’s marquee matchup, El Clásico, between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid) in the MLS playoffs. LAFC took home the win in the 93rd minute thanks to a Denis Bouanga goal that sent them to the conference final.

LAFC then went on to beat Austin 3-0 last weekend, and that’s how we arrived at the upcoming league championship game on Saturday.

LAist reporter Julia Barajas recently wrote about LAFC fan history for LAist and we have a very special How To LA podcast episode on LAFC fan culture. It’s a great pre-game listen if you’re headed to the game or planning to watch from home.

A group of men with a range of skin tones cheer and celebrate as one man hoists an MLS trophy over his head. Sign behind them reads: Wester Conference Champions 2022.
Giorgio Chiellini #14 of Los Angeles FC holds the championship trophy.
(Kevork Djansezian
Getty Images)

What You Should Know About This Season

LAFC was the winningest team in the league this season, finishing top of the table with 67 points. The Philadelphia Union, too, finished with 67 points. But LAFC had the better record, 21-9-4, versus Philly’s 19-5-10, so they were awarded the Supporter’s Shield, which honors the league’s top regular season team.

How Points Work

The MLS has a regular season point system that values a win as 3 points, a loss as 0, and a tie at 1 — however, if two teams end up with the same point totals at the end of the year, the tie goes to the club with the most wins, according to league procedures.

Now, this bit of minutiae may seem like a footnote, especially because it didn’t impact playoff seeding — LAFC plays in the Western Conference, while Philadelphia plays in the Eastern Conference. American sports culture loves playoffs and often chortles at regular season records that don’t end with hoisting the hardware (see: 18-1 record, 2007 New England Patriots). But in England, Spain, Italy, France, and Germany (the lands of very good soccer leagues), the “best” team is the one that racks up the most points across the season, thereby demonstrating that they are, consistently, the best.

In those top European leagues, there are no playoffs. So, in the unfortunate instance that LAFC loses on Saturday, you can find comfort in the fact that on a different continent, they’d be universally lauded as the best team this season.

Anywho, American soccer is an odd bird. In the 1990s, the MLS did away with ties for a stretch and replaced them with… 35-yard shootouts, those famous things that happen in every footie match.

Two soccer players pursue a ball as two others look on behind them. One is wearing a black uniform with an LAFC logo and the word FLEX across the front. The other is wearing a lime green uniform with an Austin team logo and the word YETI across the front.
Carlos Vela of Los Angeles FC is tackled by Alexander Ring of Austin FC during the the playoffs.
(Kevork Djansezian
Getty Images)

Alright, I’m In The Weeds. How Does Soccer Work?

Woof, okay, here we go. There are 22 players on a soccer field during a match, 11 per side. Each team has a goalkeeper, the person who can touch the ball with their hands, while the other 10 folks cannot. Working from the goalie to the center of the field, in order, each team will have some combination of defenders, midfielders, and forwards (this breakdown will vary based on the formation).

The goal is, well, to score more goals than the other side. By kicking and heading, but not punching the ball past the goalkeeper into the net — remember, no hands! In this particular game, L.A. and Philadelphia will have 90 minutes to try and score the most goals. If they both have the same number of goals after this span, the game will be extended by thirty minutes, split into two 15-minute periods of extra time.

If the game is still tied after that, the winner will be determined by penalty kicks, which, as mentioned before, is less than ideal.

No, we do not have time to explain offside rules today. If you have a lot of time and patience, read about them here.

Anything Else?

Go LAFC! Win the thing! Do the sports!

What questions do you have about Southern California?