Bayern, LAFC to join forces for player growth

Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich and MLS Cup champions Los Angeles FC will form a joint venture in a bid to bolster their respective player development efforts, the clubs announced Monday.

The venture, which the two organizations are calling a “global soccer development cooperation” is named “Red&Gold Football” and will be based in Munich, Germany. Each club will own 50% of the venture’s shares.

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“A partnership of this magnitude is the next step in our evolution as a club,” LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington said in a statement. “We are extremely excited to work together with FC Bayern to identify and develop young talent in southern California and beyond and believe this relationship will provide players throughout our systems the ability to maximize their potential and see a clear pathway to first team football.”

Bayern CEO and chairman of the board of management Oliver Kahn added: “On an international level, soccer is developing rapidly, which is also evident in the transfer market. We see this partnership as an opportunity to strengthen FC Bayern in the sporting competition with the best clubs in Europe and the Bundesliga.

“The fact that the 2026 World Cup will largely take place in the USA, where we already have an office in New York, makes Los Angeles even more attractive. I expect a boost in quality and young talent in Major League Soccer, which will have a positive impact on our partnership.”

Thorrington, in an exclusive interview with ESPN, said there would be an exchange of best practices in terms of player development and coaching. But he added that the primary goal of the partnership was “vertical integration” with the global transfer market. LAFC also hopes to tap into Bayern’s expansive scouting network.

“The transfer market is a big part of our business, and I think Bayern Munich sees great potential in MLS and LAFC and this pipeline of talent,” Thorrington said. “I think it enables us to go after a more mature player, but then when you back that all the way down into our academy it essentially widens our funnel and then also gives us far more opportunities to place players globally.”

That could potentially involve players moving from LAFC’s academy to Munich as well as Bayern players who aren’t quite ready for their first team getting some playing time with the Los Angeles club.

Thorrington said: “Now for an academy kid to think that he can be the next Alphonso Davies, as a young player growing up in LA through our academy, who goes and plays in the Champions League for Bayern Munich, that’s now a much more realistic vision and path for a kid like that. We are hoping to make that a well-worn path.”

He said that both clubs anticipate cooperation with other football clubs and development academies throughout the world as part of a global development initiative.

When asked if this was a way of following a similar path to organizations like City Football Group — in which Premier League side Manchester City sits at the head, but includes numerous clubs including LaLiga side Girona FC as well MLS side New York City FC — Thorrington said: “It’s different in that it’s a joint venture. It’s not a sharing of equity or being purchased.

“Neither club is being purchased by the other. But it is our way of achieving some of the advantages that these other clubs have that we don’t when we operate independently.

“We think it is the right balance of cooperation and obviously, we are very focused on what LAFC delivers to our supporter group here in LA and our players and everything. It’s very LA-based. But I think in order to maximize what we can do here in LA, being a part of the global ecosystem in this way will make LAFC better.”

Bayern, on top of opening an international office in New York in 2014, had a previous relationship with FC Dallas dating from 2018.

Hasan Salihamidzic, Bayern’s Chief Sports Officer said: “The cooperation with Los Angeles Football Club gives us the chance to develop talent internationally within our own system. Our campus, which remains at the heart of FC Bayern’s youth development, will also benefit.

“In the future, we will be able to offer our young players a career path that is even better tailored to them and thus a better transition into our professional teams and professional soccer. This makes FC Bayern more attractive as a youth development club.”

Thorrington said that it was Bayern who first approached LAFC’s ownership about the joint venture, and that discussions became more advanced in March of 2022, which is when he and LAFC CBO Larry Freedman became involved.

He said: “There will be a lot of overlap of course, but this joint venture will be funded by both, and staffed uniquely to sit into the nexus between the clubs and in this global network to operate to the good of both clubs.”


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