LA Strikers are dead. Long live LA Strikers.
Actually, the USL W-League announced Monday that the LA Strikers and Pali Blues are merging to become the LA Blues. The two teams have faced off for supremacy of Los Angeles since the Strikers were founded in 2011, but the rivalry is no more, as the two teams have joined forces.
According to the release about the merger, Pali Blues head coach Charlie Naimo will become coach of the LA Blues, while Strikers coach Tracey Kevins will become Technical Director of the new club. The move looks to help the on-field product, as the two clubs finished atop the Western Conference standings last season, with both making the postseason. Pali beat the Strikers in the playoffs on the way to the W-League title, although the Strikers handed the Pali Blues their only losses of the 2013 season. Although the rosters will have to be combined, that shouldn't be such a hard accomplishment, as many W-League players are in college and rosters are made on a season-to-season basis anyway.
Off the field, although there is one fewer women's team in the LA region, joining forces will likely help the clubs attempt to make a greater impact on finding and keeping potential fans. But perhaps even more important with the merger is the ambition to make a bigger leap altogether. When the NWSL announced cities for their inaugural season, which took place this year, LA was one of the major cities that was not included. The ownership groups of both Pali Blues and the LA Strikers were reportedly unhappy at being overlooked, despite joining forces on a plan for a professional team. With the merger complete on the W-League level, they may be looking to impress the NWSL ahead of possible expansion in the coming years (should the NWSL prove its sustainability, of course).
The LA Blues are also owned by the Mansouri family, who happen to own…the LA Blues of the USL-PRO. Presumably, rebranding the new women's club to match that of the men's team is meant to increase the brand's presence in LA on both the male and female sides of the sport. And with the men's Blues being a once-lonely outpost of its league (since getting neighbors from Phoenix and the upcoming Sacramento team, coached by none other than Preki), that might help the women's club make a case to make the step up in leagues. But for the moment, they'll be competing in the W-League, hoping to make a statement with a championship as the newly constituted club.
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