From the Classroom

Los Angeles Football Club: For All Angelenos

LAFC’s fans are a cause, not a result, of the club’s success.

LAFC fans in jerseys and scarves watch a game in a bar.

Long after the final whistle, The 3252 are still singing in a Little Tokyo parking lot.

This is Los Angeles!

LAFC has just finished a 1-1 tie in Nashville, but the heartbeat of the club pumps from The Escondite, where various supporter groups, or SGs, have organized a watch party.

This is Los Angeles! Ahoo, ahoo, ahoo, ahoo!

Named for the number of seats in LAFC’s Supporters Section at BMO Stadium, The 3252 has been the club’s independent supporters union since before the team first kicked a ball in 2018.

They are loud. They are loyal. And they are a big reason why LAFC has succeeded where others have failed.

“[The 3252] is a lot of different communities and people from a lot of different parts of the city coming together for this one club,” said Sean Park, an LAFC fan from Koreatown.

In October 2014, Major League Soccer awarded Los Angeles a second soccer team—in addition to the already existing L.A. Galaxy—to be named Los Angeles Football Club. As it prepared to join the league in 2018, Co-President and Chief Business Officer Larry Freedman set out to build a club and a community to support it.

“That afforded us nothing but time to get out there in the community and meet people, talk to them about their interest in and love for the game of football,” Freedman said. “And if we were going to build a club—not a team, not a franchise, but a club—what would they like that club to look like and would they like to build it with us?”

Freedman and the rest of LAFC had the luxury of coming after Chivas USA, which joined the MLS in 2005 and shared a stadium with the Galaxy. Chivas ultimately failed to garner support from L.A.’s already crowded sports scene and folded after just 10 seasons.

Freedman said he learned a lot from Chivas’s failure, both as a business and as a soccer team. But he believed that what it left behind was a population of soccer fans without a club to support.

“All we needed to do was create something that would resonate with [fans] as authentic to the global game, and the rest would take care of itself,” he said.

So, the club went to local bars and pubs, gauging L.A.’s soccer culture, building relationships and developing a fanbase.

“We really took a very grassroots approach,” said Patrick Aviles, who has been at LAFC since the start, working mostly in supporter relations. “It was going out in the community, meeting people where they are, talking to them about the culture of football, about global football, about our city, the culture around the sport as well. And, you know, really connecting with people.”

It appears to have worked.

“They really put their finger on the pulse as to what was happening in the city, in the areas around us and what we wanted, and I was in,” said Eldrick Bone, a fan from South Central.

Both the fans and the club speak highly of their relationship, with the club holding collaborative meetings with the 3252 consistently to address fan ideas and concerns.

“[LAFC] actually listen and they want to be inclusive,” said Keaton Cashier, who lives in the San Fernando Valley. “They want people to feel like, ‘This is somewhere I wanna be.’”

En L.A. hay una banda

Que no para de saltar

Son los locos Angelenos

Que vinieron a alentar.

In L.A. there is a band

That doesn’t stop jumping

They are the crazy Angelenos

Who came to cheer.

At home matches, drums bang, flags fly and voices ring for 90 minutes; LAFC fans don’t know how to support their team any other way.

“We’re not only at the L.A. games, we’re also at the traveling games,” said Jerico Hernandez, a member of a traveling sect of the 3252 called the Road Trip Boys. “So you will always see our support in house and out house, baby!”

Chanting in both English and Spanish, The 3252 believe they make a direct impact on matches from the stands.

“Our spirit and what we give is almost as important as what the players are giving,” Bone said.

Bone is a member of the 42Originals, one of the many sects of The 3252, which brings fans of both LAFC and recreational cannabis together.

The group advocates for the decriminalization of marijuana, using it as a tool to unite like-minded people who want to cheer for LAFC and smoke together. Cashier, also part of the 42Originals, speaks regularly with other supporters unions in the MLS, advocating for more cannabis groups across the league.

“Nowhere in sports will you find somebody else as enthusiastic about cannabis as we are,” he said.

42Originals flags wave throughout The North End during home matches, and green scarves with the slogan “Where the Weed At?” dot the crowd. For the match against Nashville, the Originals have partnered with the Tigers Supporters Group to organize a watch party for fans in both SGs and anyone else interested.

Based in Koreatown, TSG isn’t just for Korean fans, according to Park.

“It’s more of a melting pot,” he said.

Park plays the drums at games and watch parties, keeping the crazy Angeleno band rooting in rhythm. He has played drums his whole life, so when his group needed a drummer, Park stepped up, saying the role felt “natural.”

“We’re the same,” said Hernandez of the different SGs. He dances to the beat of Park’s drum and passes his joint to a stranger.

“Come and hang out with us and have fun and cheer for L.A. Football Club,” he said with a grin.

Dale, dale, dale, Black and Gold!

LAFC is for all Angelenos, especially the abandoned ones.

“The Galaxy didn’t really care about reaching out to the rest of the city,” Park said of his club’s rivals, who play in Carson, California. “They got complacent in a way, and LAFC did a good job of coming in and taking care of the rest of it. All of the neglected parts of L.A. are coming together, that’s what this is.”

Christian Ixcol grew up in South L.A. without a team.

“I remember we would go to Exposition Park before it became turf, when it was all dirt and, you know, messed up,” he said.

From the lumps on the field when he was a kid to the state-of-the-art BMO stadium where he watches his team play now, Ixcol has seen LAFC bring in fans as local as he is, to Cashier, who took the train in from the Valley to watch his favorite team with the people he calls family.

“We’ve come through the sport, that’s what brought us in, but then you meet these people and then you really become part of this family,” said Cashier, a founding member of The 3252.

Now, having won the 2022 MLS Cup in just its fifth season in the league, LAFC has its sights set on the global stage, according to Freedman.

The Black and Gold are in the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League this season, and, should they win it, will qualify for the Club World Cup and face the best teams from all over the world.

Regardless of the result, LAFC’s loyal fanbase will still be there, Hernandez said, “through thick and thin, whether we win or lose.”