Third-division professional soccer team LA Force has inked a deal to play its 2024 season in Long Beach, where it hopes to establish deep roots.
This spring, LA Force will become the city’s only professional team, with home games scheduled at Long Beach City College and Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“The idea is to be here for years to come,” said LA Force Vice President Alex Lujan. “We are looking beyond (2024) and looking to invest and be a presence in the community and culture of Long Beach.”
LA Force was established in 2019 with the founding of the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA), a league in the third tier of the United States Soccer Federation that offers an affordable pathway for amateur or semi-pro teams looking to create professional clubs.
But the club’s roots lie within FC Golden State Force, a soccer team that started as a youth club in Pasadena, Lujan said.
The youth club became a success, and the organization was looking at ways to have its professional team when someone asked if they’d be interested in being one of the founding members of NISA.
From there, LA Force was born and has served as a stepping stone for players potentially looking to sign contracts with MLS teams, in Mexico or overseas.
The team’s roster also boasts multiple players with tenured careers, including Dekel Keinan, a defender who has played at the top levels of England’s professional soccer league, the USL, and had 27 appearances for Israel’s national team. Keinan arrived at LA Force in 2023, after a one-year stint with the Las Vegas Lights of the USL Championship.
Keinan quickly became captain of the team, but after the club learned what a “valuable asset” he was, Keinan, who also has a Class A coaching license, became the team’s new head coach.
“He checks all the boxes across the court,” Lujan said. “He’s seen more soccer at the highest level than anyone on this team.”
With the move to Long Beach and a few new faces on the team filled with bolstering talent, Lujan said it feels as if the “stars have aligned” for the team to win its first league championship.
Last year, the team played at a stadium in Orange County, but felt it wasn’t ideal for establishing their presence and building a true club identity.
The contract to play in Long Beach only covers this year, Lujan said. But the team owner Bob Friedland, who lives in Long Beach, hopes to stick around long-term, and establish strong ties with the community while they’re here, he said.
So far, the team reached out to a few local bars to collaborate with, and they’d also like to team up with some of the city’s artists, Lujan said.
“The idea is to connect and see how year one goes,” Lujan said. “But the hope is that everything works out. Not just the facility, but connecting with the community, Long Beach and its culture.”
On game days, Lujan said the team is looking to create an environment, not only for avid soccer fans, but for families and residents who are just looking to have a good time.
Though all of the specifics haven’t been worked out ahead of the 2024 season, Lujan said games will offer a diverse mix of food trucks and activities. Additionally, he said tickets to see LA Force in Long Beach will be much more affordable compared to other professional soccer games. Ticket prices have not been announced yet.
LA Force will play in the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday, March 20 at Long Beach City College. The Open Cup is a knockout tournament between dozens of teams from professional soccer teams in the U.S.
LA Force will play their season opener at Veterans Memorial Stadium on April 6.
For more information about LA Force, their upcoming schedule, and tickets, click here.