XSL: Regional Growth of the Game

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At Protagonist Soccer we have discussed the importance of regional competition. Regional competition builds rivalries which bring in more fans. Regional competition uses its own talent without promoting other areas. Regional competition doesn’t force clubs to pay for high travel fees. Soccer fans often talk about how big our nation is and the amount of players that fall through the cracks, and it’s regional competition that helps place lower division clubs in smaller markets all over the nation. One owner saw these benefits to regional competition, so Fernando Macias created XSL of San Gabriel Valley.

The San Gabriel Valley resides in Los Angeles county and is the home to over 40 cities and neighborhoods. Over 1.5 million people, from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds, live in this dense area. The region also plays host to multiple colleges and universities. The San Gabriel Valley has all the ingredients for a regional soccer league.

The XSL was created in mid 2018 and launched with six teams in their inaugural season: Malex FC, Mafran FC, Nopaleros, Rowland United, Simon Bolivar and Soyatlan FC. Each club plays on Sundays at Gladstone High School in Covina, CA, where the XSL sets up two fields for one big soccer fest.

With the variety of league options in Southern California, I wanted to know what inspired Fernando to create the XSL. “ I played soccer in the area all my life and I noticed that most soccer leagues are very simple. All the leagues provided was a place to play, some referees and maybe some prize money if you won the championship. I know the kids that are playing these days are all millennial and there is no online presence for those other soccer leagues. Not even facebook, not even something with the schedule or the points. When I used to play I had no idea what place we were in. I had no idea how many points the other teams had. I had no idea how many goals the other players had. I decided to start a soccer league and bring it into the 21st century.”

While the league is small in size they have began to make big impressions with their branding. Along with running the league with his partner Ismael Sanchez, Fernando Macias is a talented graphic designer who has helped the league and each team with strong branding. Fernando wears many hats to help develop his league, but he is working towards some very big goals. When asked about the branding of the XSL he said  “Initially I had an idea to hire aspiring photographers, web developers, journalists from local colleges and high schools to help with the work. I’m still in the process of acquiring that, because I would like to focus on the branding. What you see online, isn’t what you’ll see next year. Next year I’m planning on stepping away from taking pictures and writing about the games and focus solely on the branding of my teams, players and coaches.”

Part of the incredible branding and that 21st century model, the XSL offers its fans a website with updated stats and standings. Their social media platforms show video highlights and player cards. They are continuing to grow as they enter their 2019 season and are looking at options for streaming, he said “next season we will have full games on our YouTube channel. Again, I will be looking for volunteers to provide commentary and analysis on the games.”

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Currently the XSL is just a regional league, and while Fernando has ambitions to promote players and staff to better career opportunities, he also has ambitions of becoming a well recognized and respected league amongst the fans of lower tier soccer. What is the future for the XSL? “ I want to get as high as possible [within the U.S. Soccer pyramid], maybe third tier. Eventually that is my goal. Maybe even trying to form a California League, something regional or West-coast. Getting more marketing, getting online and even getting a news service, like ESPN, dedicated to our league. The journalists will be aspiring volunteers from High School and College. The league will help them develop their resume to later on apply to an ESPN or Fox Sports. At the same time they can help build my league. I want to be independent. I want to promote my teams, promote my players. I want to give them soccer cards, highlights, photos of their games so they can see themselves in action.”

While the XSL started out small, it has begun to make an impact on social media. Fernando has shed a light on soccer within the San Gabriel Valley and wants to continue to develop his business over the next few seasons. “I look forward to growing next season. This first season, like any first year in business, you take your bumps and bruises. Next season expect us to be exponentially better.” Fernando also added, “I’m not getting in this game to compete with these other leagues. I am getting in this game to dominate. There is no point to just get in to stay even or catch up. I see myself ahead of everybody. I see my league as the gold standard and for everybody else to catch up.

To reach the heights Fernando Macias wants the XSL to reach, he will need to show: hard work, dedication and a will to win. He has already shown those three qualities within one season and has proved that the sky's the limit, for this now small regional league.

“It’s the X Soccer League. The next level soccer league.”

- Steven Ramirez