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Friday, March 11, 2011
GALAXY: MLS Cup at HDC? Leiweke's leak

By Scott French

Is Major League Soccer's championship game returning to Southern California? That's what Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of the Galaxy's ownership group, intimated at the club's annual fan luncheon Friday afternoon.

AEG chief Leiweke was expressing his hope that L.A. would capture the MLS Cup title this season after falling just short the last two seasons, when acknowledged it would be nice to win the trophy at home.


“It is set up well where we might happen to have a certain championship in a certain city we all know and love,” Leiweke told a gathering in ESPN Zone at L.A. Live. “So it would certainly be a good Cup, that we have a chance to finish [a championship season] here.”

Leiweke did not say so, but the game, which will be played in November, would almost certainly be staged at AEG-owned Home Depot Center in Carson, site of the 2003, 2004 and 2008 MLS Cup title games. The 1998 final was played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Leiweke acknowledged that Commissioner Don Garber might not be pleased he was divulging the news, prefacing it: “Have we announced it yet?” And, told no: “Then I can't announce it. … I can do anything I want, because then the commissioner can yell at me, right?”

Garber, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the substance of Leiweke's remarks, but MLS director of communications Will Kuhns said the league was “close to finalizing a site for MLS Cup … and hope to announce the details in the near future.”

A league official said an announcement was expected in the next month.

Tom Payne, the Galaxy's president of business operations, told the audience: “I think [Leiweke] might have leaked a bit of information, and it's something we hope we can announce here in the coming weeks.”

Leiweke had not been expected to attend the luncheon, and Payne wasn't anticipating he'd talk about the site for the 16th MLS Cup.

“I don't know that it's been finalized,” Payne later told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “Our staff doesn't even know. … But if he says it, I guess it has to happen.”

BIG EXPECTATIONS: The luncheon's speakers -- Leiweke, Payne, head coach Bruce Arena and captain Landon Donovan -- all extolled the quality of the club, expectations of success and hope that they'll be parading the trophy next November. The usual:

“Our expectations are to be successful this year, and to win championships, win competitions, win trophies,” Arena said. “It's not going to be easy, but I'll tell you: We have a group that is up for the challenge.”

The Galaxy opens Tuesday night in Seattle and plays its first home game the following Sunday against New England at Home Depot Center.

ALVARADO SIGNED: One player acquisition was announced: Sean Alvarado, a central defender from West Orange, N.J., who played his final season at UCLA in 2009, was signed to an “apprentice” contract. He joined camp as a trialist earlier this month.

“I think he's a good, young player,” Arena said. “He improved every week we've had him, and I think he's a kid with some potential. And with the reserve league this year, it's a perfect platform for a young player like that.”

BECKHAM NEWS: David Beckham might have drawn the biggest applause of the afternoon when he announced that his and wife Victoria's fourth child, due in July, will be a girl.

He participated in an online chat with fans on ESPN's website afterward and was asked about the game's growth during his time with the Galaxy.

“Soccer not being the No. 1 sport in this country, it's always going to be a challenge to raise the profile of it,” he said. “I always said it won't happen overnight. It will happen in 5-10 years. Over time it will get to be one of the better leagues. That's an exciting prospect. There is no reason that can't happen over time. I've enjoyed playing for the Galaxy. It has been incredible.”

RADIO NEWS: Former Galaxy assistant coach Ralph Perez (he's the head coach at the University of Redlands) will be the color analyst on the Galaxy's radio broadcasts on KLAC/570 AM and KTLX/1150 AM. Joe Tutino handles play-by-play.