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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.

Las posibles alineaciones de LAFC y LA Galaxy para el clásico de El Tráfico
Dave Bernal

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.

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El Tráfico

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 four and a half years later in 2022 and the derby name still applies, despite the initial doubts. The sides go head to head at the Banc of California stadium in the Western Conference semi-finals on Thursday.


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