The California Clásico: LA vs. San Jose

Looking forward to the June 29 clash between San Jose and LA at Stanford Stadium
by Luke James   |   Monday, February 11, 2013

Match of the Bay - column on San Jose Earthquakes & the San Francisco Bay Area soccer scene

Rivalries between particular teams have always been an important factor in the beautiful game’s climb to dominance as the world’s most watched sport. As soccer continues to grow in the USA, it’s important that the rivalries between teams here also grow and strengthen. The passion of the fans for their teams at a grassroots level is what drives the game’s popularity. And as the fan base grows, the money will surely follow.

The rivalry between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Los Angeles Galaxy is a pure, passionate example of what the Spanish call “Morbo,” a special rivalry that runs deep as blood, churns your guts with emotion; that special game where you get to challenge your biggest rivals.

In Spain, there’s El Clásico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Argentina boasts The Superclásico between Boca Juniors and River Plate. These rivalries might start with soccer, but they run deeper than that. In Scotland, Glasgow’s Celtic and Rangers games have the added religious division of Catholicism and Protestantism thrown into the mix.

San Jose and LA are often seen as being divided by opposing political differences, with Los Angeles portrayed as representing Southern California conservatism, while San Jose is renowned as a bastion of Northern California technological liberalism.  

The San Jose vs. Los Angeles games are so fiercely contested that even British daily newspapers, which largely ignore MLS, have covered them. The Guardian called it the most historic and intense rivalry in the US league.

The California Clásico started in 1996, reaching ever higher levels of ferocity in between 2001 and 2005 when in a 5-year period the Earthquakes and the Galaxy won 2 MLS Cup titles apiece.

Last year there were a spate of "Goonie Moments" between the teams – away regular season wins and first-leg MLS Cup playoff wins for the Quakes – before a hard-to-swallow home defeat to the Galaxy dumped them out of the MLS Cup race at Buck Shaw Stadium.

At the Stanford California Clásico, it’s a sure bet the 1906 Ultras will bring new, more LA-disparaging chants. What they don’t give about LA is not something I can write here. And the tifos they unfurl grow ever more epic, rivaling anything seen in Europe or South America

Last year I went to the California Clásico at Stanford with my then 6-year-old son Vincent. More than 50,000 people got to see superstar David Beckham score one of his trademark free kicks. We saw Steven Lenhart celebrate his opening goal by doing chin-ups on the LA crossbar. We jumped and yelled in a sea of jubilation as San Jose striker Chris Wondolowski ran to celebrate his goal by high fiving members of our armed forces cheering from behind the goal.

We even got to see Beckham engage in a short bout of handbags with the San Jose players and their mascot. I mean to say, where else are you going to see perhaps the most famous soccer player on the planet in a rumble with a gigantic blue muppet?

And in the end, we got to watch the San Jose Earthquakes come back from 3-1 down at halftime to beat the LA Galaxy 4-3.

Walking out of the stadium with fireworks bursting in the air over the ground, my son shook his head muttering over and over “that was … that was … amazing.” Then turning to look up at me, he said the three words every father longs to hear: “Thank you Daddy.”

Hey, thank you San Jose Earthquakes, from both of us. See you at Stanford Stadium on June 29.


Bournville Arts Coll.
Club Domestic:
Manchester United
Club Foreign:
SJ Earthquakes
6'9" Englishman with great view of the game from anywhere in the stadium. Manchester United fan since 1967. San Francisco Bay Area resident and huge (sic) San Jose Earthquakes fan. Covers entire SF Bay area soccer scene for SN.