A 2022 study by WalletHub declared that Los Angeles is the best in America for soccer fans. Based on 52 key metrics, from stadium accessibility to number of championship wins, this comparison of more than 290 U.S. cities put L.A. firmly on top as the most soccer-friendly.
With so much on the horizon for fans of "the beautiful game" – the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia/New Zealand this summer; the CONCACAF Gold Cup final at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium in July; the U.S.-hosted 2024 Copa América; and L.A. as a FIFA World Cup 2026 host city – read on and explore how we can all be part of LA's burgeoning soccer scene.
Go to a Game
Better known as “football” internationally, what we call soccer is famed for the passion of its hardcore fans. While U.S. crowds are yet to consistently equal the fervor of those in Europe and South America, that gap is narrowing. In March 2022, a match between expansion side Charlotte F.C. and L.A.’s own Galaxy attracted a Major League Soccer (MLS) record crowd of nearly 75,000 - the attendance record was smashed in July 2023 by the 20th "El Tráfico" (see below).
Organized soccer in L.A. dates back to 1902, when the Southern California Football League was founded. Levels of popularity have undulated since, previously peaking with teams like the Los Angeles Wolves, the first and only champions of the United Soccer Association; Los Angeles Aztecs (1974-1981), featuring legendary players like George Best and Johan Cruyff; and Chivas USA, a joint venture with Mexico’s Club Deportivo Guadalajara that folded in 2014.
Today, professional soccer seems to have finally found a firm footing in Los Angeles, with the LA Galaxy, one of the original 10 MLS charter members in 1994, being joined by Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) as an expansion team five years ago. The Galaxy is one of the most successful MLS teams, including a record five MLS Cups, and has fielded marquee players including David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimović, and Landon Donovan. Fierce rivals LAFC were runners-up in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2020 and are the current MLS champions.
Playing at the 22,000-seat, soccer-specific BMO Stadium (formerly Banc of California Stadium) in Exposition Park, LAFC has already nurtured considerable club culture since playing its first MLS match just five years ago. The team’s supporters are known collectively as "The 3252," a reference to the official capacity of the safe-standing supporter section at BMO Stadium.
For a truly impassioned atmosphere, head to one of the big local rivalry matches. Most notable is the "El Tráfico" crosstown derby between the Galaxy and LAFC, which has been characterized by high scoring, dramatic goals, and close results that have further fueled anticipation for the fixture. The 20th El Tráfico took place at Rose Bowl Stadium on July 4, 2023 and made history with an attendance of 82,110 fans - a new MLS single-game record. Led by "masterclass performances" from Riqui Puig and Tyler Boyd, the Galaxy won the epic showdown 2-1.
The Galaxy’s longest-running rivalry match is the "California Clásico" against the San Jose Earthquakes, while LAFC counts Seattle Sounders, who they defeated in their first ever game, and Philadelphia Union as notable rivals.
Now sharing BMO Stadium is Angel City FC, a National Women’s Soccer League expansion team that debuted last year. With average crowds of close to 20,000 in its inaugural season, Angel City – whose owners include Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria, Mia Hamm, and Serena Williams – is already the biggest draw in the NWSL.
LA Galaxy plays home games at the 27,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park soccer stadium on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson. The team boasts four ardent supporters’ groups: the Galaxians, formed during the team’s first MLS season; LA Riot Squad, formed in 2001; the Angel City Brigade, created in 2007; and, since 2019, Galaxy Outlawz. These and other regular supporters ensure a vibrant yet family-friendly atmosphere at Galaxy home games (the MLS has experienced few incidences of the hooliganism that has blighted the game internationally).
Los Angeles also enjoys world-class international soccer fixtures, with upcoming highlights including the CONCACAF Gold Cup final on July 16 at Inglewood’s state-of-the-art, 70,000-capacity SoFi Stadium; Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium likely hosting some of next year’s COPA America, as it did in 2016; and L.A. tipped as a host city for the expanded, 48-team 2026 World Cup finals, which will be co-hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
Where to Watch
LA Galaxy Bar Partners, which are all equipped with MLS Season Pass subscription and team swag, include the Sunset Room in Hacienda Heights, Absolution Brewing Company in Torrance, or OB’s Pub & Grill in Manhattan Beach.
To soak up some of the international flavor of “footie” alongside lifelong expat fans, the L.A. chapters of overseas supporters’ clubs present prime opportunities to tap into the global game right here at home. For example, the official Los Angeles Branch of the Leeds United Supporters Club meets to cheer on the former English champions at the very soccer-friendly Britannia Pub in Santa Monica.
In Glendale, Underdogs sports bar is where Penya Blaugrana Los Angeles, the official supporters club of Spanish giants Barcelona FC, meets for games, and is also a good spot to catch select international matches (expect an electric atmosphere for the Turkey vs Armenia Euro qualifier on September 8, after Turkey’s comeback win in Yerevan in March).
As well as being an LAFC Bar Partner, La Cita Bar in Downtown LA is a great venue for watching Mexican soccer matches, be it “El Tri” (the national team) or south-of-the-border league fixtures.
Other staunch soccer bars include Anglophile staple The Fox and Hounds in Studio City; the similarly Brit-themed Ye Olde King’s Head in Santa Monica and Lucky Baldwin’s Pub in Pasadena; and the historic, bustling Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood.
Where to Play
Participating in soccer as a player is not only healthy and social, but also greatly heightens appreciation of the game at its highest levels as a spectator. It’s easy to stumble upon a soccer game in L.A. on weekends, with all manner of leagues, programs, and pickup games of every level of skill and seriousness to choose from.
Venice Beach Football Club is distinguished by its unusual, very visible location next to the Venice Beach Boardwalk and its mission to build the game in the surrounding neighborhood. As well as ocean-view pickup games, VBFC has developed a youth academy and attracted top teams including LAFC and Barcelona to play in Venice.
Within a decade of its 2010 founding, L.A. Villa F.C. was the largest recreational women’s soccer club not only in Los Angeles, but in all of Southern California. With players ranging in age from 18-60, L.A. Villa has won more than 30 titles and, at its highest level, competes in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. The club also offers 7-aside opportunities, with teams playing in both the LA Municipal League and Pasadena Adult Soccer League.
If your schedule and/or skill level preclude formalized league participation, the myriad pickup games across L.A. offer something for everyone, with online registration often available. Hotbeds of local pickup soccer include MacArthur Park in Downtown Los Angeles and nearby Lafayette Park; Santa Monica Airport Fields; Playa Vista Soccer Field; and small-sided games at Sofive soccer centers in Southgate, Covina and Pomona.
Alternatively, just show up with some friends and four cones at any area park and start your own pickup game – or go truly old-school and just use garments as goal posts!