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Why is LAFC vs LA Galaxy called El Tráfico?

The growing rivalry between the LA Galaxy and LAFC has seen it all, including brilliant goals and entertaining matches.

The growing rivalry between the LA Galaxy and LAFC has seen it all, including brilliant goals and entertaining matches.
Kirby LeeUSA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Do you remember way, way back at the beginning of the 2023 MLS season when the stand-out game on matchday one was the clash between city rivals LA Galaxy, who have won more MLS Cups than any other club, and LAFC, the reigning champions? So much has clearly changed since then -- with the arrival of a certain Lionel Messi taking many of the headlines to the east coast, and a Leagues Cup competition breaking things up -- but that doesn’t dilute the derby in Los Angeles.

And the next edition is upon us...

LAFC vs LA Galaxy: form guide

Saturday sees the two rivals go head-to-head at the BMO Stadium -- you’ll not want to miss it and we, of course, have you covered -- and both teams have had mixed results of late. Prior to the Leagues Cup, LAFC had been on a fantastic run during the regular season. However, their fortunes took a downturn when MLS action resumed, with the Black and Gold managing just one victory and succumbing to three consecutive losses against Charlotte, Inter Miami, and Portland. Despite this rough patch, Steve Cherundolo’s squad still maintains a solid position in the Western Conference, currently holding the third spot with 40 points, though they trail the conference leaders, St. Louis, by eight points.

The Galaxy, on the other hand, find themselves in a starkly contrasting position in the standings, sitting second from the bottom and trailing the playoff spots by seven points, even though they have played two fewer games. Greg Vanney’s squad had a disappointing showing in the Leagues Cup, exiting at the group stage. Their overall record stands at seven wins, ten losses, and nine draws, and they currently boast the third-worst defensive statistics within the conference.

LAFC vs LA Galaxy: the history

Los Angeles FC were established in 2014, two decades after their rivals LA Galaxy were founded. The Galaxy were formed 27 years ago, in 1994, and began playing competitively in 1996.

The first match between the two sides was only LAFC’s third ever regular season game. It was played on 31 March 2018, at the StubHub Center. Despite LAFC leading 3–0, with just 30 minutes remaining, the match ended in a 4–3 victory for the Galaxy. Substitute Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was making his debut for the club, came on to score a brace and earn his side the bragging rights.

In October 2022 it was almost as dramatic, with LAFC’s Chicho Arango netting a dramatic injury-time winner in the Western Conference Semifinals at Banc of California Stadium as his team went on to lift the trophy a couple of weeks later. The most recent encounter in July saw Galaxy edge the game 2-1 with goals from Tyler Boyd and Riqui Puig either side of one for Ilie Sánchez.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores on his debut for LA Galaxy against city rivals LAFC.
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores on his debut for LA Galaxy against city rivals LAFC.MARK RALSTONAFP

El Tráfico: what’s in the name?

The name to describe the derby is El Tráfico. El Tráfico refers to the notorious traffic congestion in Los Angeles, in the United States - while also serving as a pun on El Clásico - the famous Spanish derby between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The growing rivalry between the LA Galaxy and LAFC has seen it all - brilliant goals and entertaining battles. It has everything that the MLS could ask for, but it is, however, crying out for a respectable name to adequately describe the derby.

El Tráfico, the name… El Tráfico was a joke. It’s just a joke,” Rich Orosco, LAFC’s executive vice president of brand & community, told The Athletic. “Here’s my prediction: it will not be El Tráfico for much longer. I guarantee you. It’ll be a Wikipedia entry. It’ll say the LA Derby was originally called El Tráfico because of A, B and C and then due to a fan revolt and the people power it’s now called ‘this.’ I guarantee you.”

“Just the essence of the name is a joke and it’s nothing anybody celebrates (at LAFC),” Orosco said. “It mirrors the challenge of MLS as we grow. We all want to become a part of the global football landscape. We want to be respected as a serious entry in the global football landscape. And if you have what I think is the biggest rivalry in MLS and the name is a joke, I don’t think that helps us get anywhere fast. There’s always a story around the name. We have no story around the name El Tráfico. There is no explanation.”

The origins of El Tráfico

Alicia Rodríguez, a reporter who covers MLS, and Mike Gray, a Galaxy fan and blogger, provided valuable information on the name. In 2018, Rodríguez was managing SBNation’s LAFC blog, Angels on Parade. Gray was in charge of the site’s Galaxy blog, LAG Confidential. The pair came together to created a fan poll to help determine the name of LA’s clásico.

“Mike and I were trying to workshop the contenders that we would do on the polls,” Rodríguez explained. “We decided to do a poll on each of our sites for readers to pick the name that they wanted to use. One choice was the LA or Hollywood Derby. Another was the Battle of Los Angeles, which I actually thought was probably going to get some traction, but no, it was El Tráfico that really took the cake. It overwhelmingly won on both sites.”

LA Galaxy vs LAFC

The catchiness of El Tráfico has proven to be strong and here we are, over five years later in 2023 and the derby name still applies, despite the initial doubts. Now we can just enjoy the action...