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Leagues Cup friendlies showing L.A. is a soccer market

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LA Galaxy forward Dejan Jovelic, left, celebrates his goal with forward Nick DePuy during the first half of the League Cup game against the Chivas on Wednesday, August 3, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Galaxy striker Dejan Jovelic (left) celebrates his goal with striker Nick DePuy during the first half of the League Cup match against Chivas on Wednesday at SoFi Stadium. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Two and a half years ago, as the builders were putting the finishing touches on the SoFi stadium, the promoters were closing in on an agreement that the Barcelona-Real Madrid game would be one of the first sporting events to take place at the stadium.

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The Mexican national team asked if they could play there again.

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Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, decimating live crowds at sports and entertainment events for more than a year. Since then, SoFi has hosted two NFL regular seasons, the Super Bowl and concerts by the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Los Bukis.

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But it wasn’t until Wednesday that football finally arrived at the $5.5 billion stadium. Galaxy beating Chivas from Guadalajara 2-0 in the first leg of the League Cup Showing goals Dejan Jovelic and teenager Jonathan Perez. LAFC played in mexico american club in the second game.

Three more such exhibitions will take place next month in Nashville, Salt Lake City and Cincinnati, leading up to the next summer League Cup, a month-long tournament featuring all 47 Liga MX and MLS teams.

The organizers said attendance at the doubleheader show was sold out, with over 70,000 tickets sold. Last weekend LAFC City of Angels from the NWSL and Division II Football Club Orange County played in front of sold-out stadiums, while an international friendly between Juventus and Real Madrid filled the Rose Bowl. Add those numbers to Wednesday’s crowd and club football has drawn more than 212,000 fans to four Southern California stadiums in the past six days.

“It shows what Los Angeles is like as a football market,” said Galaxy President Chris Klein. “Like the Major League Soccer market, like the NWSL market, like the Women’s World Cup market, like the Men’s World Cup market.”

Speaking of the World Cup, Klein is also the co-chair of the local organizing committee for the 2026 tournament, which convinced FIFA to choose SoFi as one of the 16 venues for the competition. But the friendly matches on Wednesday, he said, were not a test run before the World Cup.

“This event is taking place in their building,” he said. “He shows what football in SoFi can look like. Football in the stadium.

And hosting the World Cup at the venue will require some rework.

For example, FIFA requires World Cup games to be played on natural turf, so a grass carpet was laid on the SoFi artificial pitch on Wednesday. But the field width of 68¾ yards, according to the organizers, was a bit narrow for a World Cup game. This can be remedied by removing field-level removable seats at the four corners of the field, which did not happen on Wednesday.

“There is still work to be done,” Klein said. “The system is there so they can do it. But hosting is very different from what we host[ed] and holding the World Cup.

If the League Cup presentation wasn’t meant to be a World Cup dress rehearsal, it was meant to highlight the growing partnership between MLS and Liga MX, whose players will also meet for the second straight summer in the All-Star Game next year. week in Minneapolis.

“We thought it would be a good idea to create these showcases to send a message to the fans and obviously the market that we are very strong together,” Liga MX President Mikel Arriola said on Wednesday. “Today it is very important to highlight this statement, because this is the first time we are playing football at the SoFi stadium, right? The most valuable sports property in the world.

“MLS and Liga MX together can play in full NFL stadiums. This is a great example.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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