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MLS unveils new Los Angeles franchise set to begin play in 2017

Major League Soccer on Thursday announced its approval of a new team to be based in Los Angeles.

The new franchise, known for now as Los Angeles Football Club, follows the closing of struggling L.A. team Chivas USA, which MLS officially shut down on Monday.

MLS plans for LAFC to debut in 2017 in a new soccer stadium in the Los Angeles area that will be built specifically for the team.

"We are thrilled to welcome Henry Nguyen, Peter Guber, Tom Penn and their owner partners to Major League Soccer," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. "This visionary ownership group will chart a course that will further elevate the sport in this great city and, combined with a new state-of-the-art stadium, accelerate us down the path toward becoming one of the top soccer leagues in the world."

The team is owned by a group led by venture capitalist Henry Nguyen, Mandalay Entertainment Chairman and CEO Peter Guber, and former NBA executive and current ESPN analyst Tom Penn.

Also part of the ownership group are a sizable number of well-known figures from the sports and business world. Included are two owners of English football clubs, Cardiff's Vincent Tan and QPR co-owner Ruben Gnanalingam, as well as Roma's Larry Berg and Bennett Rosenthal.

In addition, the group involves former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson, former U.S. women's national team star Mia Hamm and her husband, former baseball player Nomar Garciaparra, self help guru Tony Robbins, Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts, Youtube co-founder Chad Hurley and Dick Clark Productions chief Allen Shapiro, among others.

The ownership of Los Angeles Football Club met with MLS commissioner Don Garber on Thursday.

At a news conference on Thursday, Nguyen said he sees big things ahead for the future of MLS.

"We're coming in at a point in time where we're on a rocketship," Nguyen said. "The MLS, it's a terrific league, incredibly well managed, incredible ownership and we're really proud to be a part of that now.

"We really believe we can take the game of soccer in America to where the MLS, really I see no reason why even within a decade's time it can be one of the top football leagues in the world."

Chivas USA was controlled by the owners of Mexican club Chivas Guadalajara, and Garber said earlier this week that the decision to specifically target the Hispanic market led to the club's downfall.

Conversely, Nguyen said LAFC would attempt to appeal to all fans.

"We want to be a football club that's inclusive," he said. "We want to bring all our fans together. We want that fanbase to represent the wonderful diversity of Los Angeles. I look at that as an incredible strength."

MLS 2015 Conference Realignment

Eastern Conference
Western Conference
Chicago Fire
Colorado Rapids
Columbus Crew SC
FC Dallas
D.C. United
Houston Dynamo
Montreal Impact
Sporting Kansas City
New England Revolution
LA Galaxy
New York City FC
Portland Timbers
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
Orlando City SC
San Jose Earthquakes
Philadelphia Union
Seattle Sounders FC
Toronto FC
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Garber said MLS anticipates an intense rivalry with L.A.'s other MLS team, the Galaxy, who play in nearby Carson.

"Los Angeles is a diverse, vibrant market with millions of soccer fans, and we look forward to an intense rivalry between the Galaxy and Los Angeles Football Club," Garber said.

LAFC is part of a wider expansion push by MLS that will see two new clubs, New York City FC and Orlando City SC, join for next season. Los Angeles and a new team in Atlanta will begin in 2017, while two more teams -- one likely owned by David Beckham's group in Miami -- will join by 2020.

The 24 teams would give the United States the largest top-flight soccer division in any country.

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