From the start, Bob Bradley bristled at the moniker.
Before LAFC had played its first match. Before Banc of California Stadium was complete. Before his side had enough players to have a full-side scrimmage in preseason. Bradley didn’t dare call LAFC an expansion team.
And he didn’t like it much if you used that description either.
On Saturday, LAFC became the 5th expansion team in MLS history to earn a playoff spot in its inaugural season. A 3-0 victory in Colorado guaranteed LAFC's passage to the first postseason in Club history with three matches to spare. And true to his style, Bradley kept his team focused on the bigger objective.
"The big celebrations come at the end," Bradley told his team in the locker room after it secured the playoff berth. "But tonight at least is a step towards qualifying for the playoffs. Alright, so congratulations to everybody."
The reason "expansion team" is akin to a persona non grata around these parts is because expansion teams are usually cobbled together. Made from unwanted parts, they rarely perform well. Since 1970, six teams across the five major sports have made the playoffs in their inaugural season.
Even going back to the start of the MLS season, LAFC never found itself below the playoff line. And now sitting on 53 points, they're poised not only to surpass Atlanta United's 55 points of last season but the MLS record of 56 points by the 1998 Chicago Fire for the most by a team in its inaugural season.
That's why LAFC and its Supporters prefer "Club" over "expansion team." A club is built. It's crafted for the short and long term, and a club is formed just as much by the players on the field and as the city that supports it. Together with LAFC EVP of Soccer Operations and GM John Thorrington, Assistant GM Will Kuntz, and LAFC's ownership, Bradley meticulously crafted LAFC piece by piece. From the grandeur of Banc of California Stadium to LAFC's style of play to the work of the LAFC Academy on youth soccer pitches around California, every decision has culminated to this point in the securing of a playoff spot in LAFC's inaugural season.
But as Bradley alluded to, the job's not done. The win in Colorado is a milestone for the Club, but only as defined by its ultimate goal.
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber echoed Bradley's words in training this week.
"Clinching the playoffs is an important feat for our team, but it's definitely not something that we are going to be satisfied with. Definitely not something me personally would be satisfied with," Feilhaber said. "If five, 10 years from now, if you see our team has gone to the playoffs each and every year that's something to be proud of.
"But each and every year, you're trying to do something special."
In its inaugural season, LAFC is hoping this isn't the last special moment.