The California Clasíco

By London Marq

STANFORD, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes and Los Angeles Galaxy are two of the original ten clubs that Major League Soccer debuted with, in 1996. The league has since bloomed and now has twenty-four teams. Separated by nearly 400 miles the Earthquakes and Galaxy continue to have one of the hottest rivalries in the league.

Known as The California Clasíco, the rivalry spans the entire 23-year history of Major League Soccer and has seen game 57 games between the regular season and the playoffs. Not only is this a geographical rivalry, but it is also marked by games that will never be forgotten. During the 2003 playoffs, San Jose scored 5 goals in a single match after being down 4-nil (on aggregate) to win the game and the series. It is one of the greatest games in MLS History and is the greatest comeback. The rivalry has exemplified the best of soccer in the United States, featuring some of the all-time greats from the U.S. such as Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski.

MLS soccer needs more rivalries like the California Clasíco. The league continues to expand year by year and MLS had the 3rd highest average attendance among the major sports leagues in the U.S. in 2018. Still, they struggle to gain the respect commanded by other sports. The lack of a lucrative and primetime television contract holds MLS from its true potential. But with the World Cup being hosted by the United States in 2026, it is likely that soccer will continue to grow as a priority in the American sports realm.

On June 29th, the Galaxy and Earthquakes went toe-to-toe once more at Stanford University in front of a sellout crowd of over 50,000 people. In 2017, Atlanta United set the MLS record for attendance with a crowd of nearly 75,000. With more expansion in the future for MLS, the league will continue to gain notoriety. But in order to thrive, MLS needs to invigorate rivalries between clubs that players and fans alike can invest in. Casual fans want to believe that soccer holds more weight than a 1-1 draw. They want to see exciting goals and enthralling storylines. MLS needs to take a long look at how they market themselves. An examination of the long history of the California Clasíco would be a great place to start.

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