The Galaxy are heading back to the old neighborhood, announcing Tuesday they will open next season at the Rose Bowl, where they played their first MLS game in 1996.
But that’s not the biggest surprise because the Galaxy’s opponent in that Feb. 25 game in Pasadena will be their inter-city rival, LAFC. In just five seasons, the series between the teams has grown into the fiercest in U.S. club soccer. And while taking the season opener out of the friendly confines of Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson means the Galaxy will give up some of their home-field advantage for a night, it also gives the team a chance at breaking the club’s single-game MLS home attendance mark of 69,255, set in their first game at the Rose Bowl 26 years ago.
“We’ve been thinking about this for a while. And even thinking about it in conjunction with LAFC,” Galaxy president Chris Klein said. “This game has taken on such a special meaning to the city, to our fans and to, really, soccer in this country.”
It was the league’s expansion to 29 teams, with the addition of a franchise in St. Louis for 2023, that allowed the team to put those thoughts into action. With MLS once again playing an unbalanced schedule, the Galaxy will meet LAFC three times next season; one game will be at Banc of California Stadium while the other two are designated as Galaxy home matches. A Galaxy official who declined to be identified, said the team would not have considered a Rose Bowl game if it didn’t also get a home date in Carson.
“It’s taking us back to our home and where we first started and driving what, we think, can be, a spectacular event for soccer in Los Angeles,” Klein said of the Rose Bowl.
The Galaxy played there 127 times across all competition during their first seven seasons, going 86-32-9 and winning an MLS Cup, a U.S. Open Cup and a CONCACAF Champions Cup before moving to Carson and taking up residence in the nation’s second soccer-specific stadium, then known as the Home Depot Center.
Galaxy season-ticket holders will have the Rose Bowl game included in their packages, while the number of tickets made available to supporters of the visiting team — in this case, LAFC — will be limited, Klein said.
“Our group is working hard on figuring out that split and are working with LAFC on that,” he added.
“The joint goal is to fill up the place,” added LAFC co-president Larry Freedman, who credited Klein with coming up with the idea for the Rose Bowl game.
The iconic stadium has played host to two of the 10 largest soccer crowds in the U.S. this year, the 93,702 that showed for the July friendly between Real Madrid and Juventus and the 62,729 at last Saturday’s Mexico-Peru game.
“We just thought this [rivalry] has been magical. If you could bottle it and sell it, you would, right?” Freedman continued. “And so we felt like we ought to give it a go. Because if it works, it’s magic on top of the magic.”
LAFC and the Galaxy teams have met 16 times across all competition and the Galaxy (6-0-2) are unbeaten in their eight home games in Carson. In the only game played at a neutral site, LAFC, designated as the home team, routed the Galaxy 6-2 in Bay Lake, Fla., during the MLS Is Back tournament in 2020.
In 2024, when the teams are expected to once again play three regular-season games, LAFC will get the additional home date. Freedman said a site for that game hasn’t been selected, but the Coliseum and SoFi Stadium are among the candidates.
The remainder of the 2023 schedule for the Galaxy and LAFC will be announced later this year.