More Hollywood United: L.A.'s other galaxy of stars
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Anthony LaPaglia wants to bring a dash of Hollywood glamour to North American soccer by taking over a Major League Soccer franchise.
LaPaglia, who plays agent Jack Malone in the New York missing persons drama "Without a Trace," said he will end his long and distinguished acting career once his current contract expires in 2010. His plans for "retirement" revolve almost entirely around soccer, and after already dabbling in club ownership as a frustrated (and often out-voted) stakeholder in Australian club Sydney FC, he wants to play the lead role for a pro team in the United States.
LaPaglia has already invested time and money into Hollywood United, an amateur club boasting several celebrities and former professionals, and the next step would be to become an MLS owner and capitalize on what he feels is the huge potential for soccer in the U.S.
The 48-year-old's desire to put some of his fortune into an MLS franchise raises the tantalizing prospect of seeing the Hollywood United brand in North America's top league, a marketing man's version of a penalty kick with no goalkeeper between the posts.
"The next time I get involved – and I will get involved again at a higher level – it will be in the U.S. and there will be fewer partners," LaPaglia said. "I will do it."
"Hollywood United is an incredible brand name. I don't know if Los Angeles could support a third team, but maybe. If you could find a place this side of the city, it is possible. Santa Barbara could be another option, or San Diego or Las Vegas.
"Either Hollywood could get up to that level or maybe I would have to buy an existing franchise."
There is a natural suspicion in the game whenever members of the show business world look to get involved, but LaPaglia has a huge advantage in that he played professionally as a goalkeeper in the Australian national league in the late 1970s.
He lives and breathes soccer and has an insatiable appetite for the sport at all levels. His exclusive interview with Yahoo! Sports took place just moments after completing 90 minutes in goal for Hollywood United's seniors team.
Hollywood United play exhibition matches all over the country, recently travelling to Mexico for a tournament, and it will soon fly to Monaco on LaPaglia's private jet to take on a team organized by Prince Albert that includes motor racing legend Michael Schumacher and tennis great Boris Becker.
Yet LaPaglia's soccer interests aren't all about glitz and glamour. He played a big role in Hollywood United's merger with a Santa Monica youth club and financing the appointment of a full-time development officer, as well as helping set up a youth goalkeeping clinic.
His soccer philosophy does not ignore the grass roots, which is a major reason why he would likely be welcomed as a future owner by MLS chiefs.
"People come to watch great football. Not to watch people balancing books," LaPaglia said. "You have to take some chances.
"MLS is trying very hard and it is going to do very well. But it is all about what you produce on the pitch. If you have nothing on the pitch to sell, you have got nothing to sell. If you produce a team people want to come and see and (watch) entertaining football, then everything comes from there.
"The key to all of it is a youth development program. If you don't have one, you don't have a future. In Australia, really good players leave for 10 bucks. What I would bring in would be the European mentality of football – the work ethic and the passion. I have that passion. This is what I love."
One option for LaPaglia is to buy into the next MLS franchise that comes up for sale. Another is to start a new operation subject to league approval – and a franchise fee of around $30 million.
Whichever scenario arises, LaPaglia's commitment seems genuine. His enthusiasm is infectious, and he appears to be a man with the financial muscle and the connections to turn his soccer dream into a reality.