Stories of soccer in the international city: Los Angeles
Soccer has always been in Los Angeles, kept alive by immigrant communities across the city, playing their version of the world’s game.
British footballers finding each other in Hollywood; bantering and battling their way through the LA Municipal League, the passion for fútbol that runs through generations of Mexican and central American families, and how AYSO youth soccer turned South Bay, Los Angeles into Soccer City, and a soccer store that’s like a social barber shop for the city.
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One of the primary images of soccer for Americans is as a recreational sport for kids; boys and girls playing weekend afternoon games with orange slices at halftime. It’s a true American homegrown soccer culture, and it was created by german-born Hans Stirle and a group of businessmen in Torrance in 1964 when they created the American Youth Soccer Organization, AYSO. Strile promoted his new league to immigrant parents who were moving to the neighborhood to work in the fast growing aerospace industry. The league developed an egalitarian team structure; if a kid signed up they were guaranteed to play in games, team rosters were shuffled every season to prevent teams from becoming too dominant and girls teams were established in 1971.
AYSO became an early generator of talent, including players who might never otherwise have discovered the game. One of those is Marine “Mr Soccer” Cano, longtime college coach and professional who had a brief stint on the US national team in the 1970s. He played on the very first AYSO teams after he discovered he had ability as a goalkeeper. At 15 his parents found cash in his pockets leading them to believe he was selling drugs, he had to convince them that the money was really pay from a semi-pro team in San Pedro. Thanks in part to AYSO, there was a time when the South Bay was known as “Soccer City,” where crowds of thousands came to watch a high school match or an AYSO all-star game.