LOS ANGELES — Mexican star Carlos Vela has reached a deal to join Los Angeles Football Club, the expansion MLS franchise due to begin play in March, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press.
The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday because LAFC hasn’t formally announced its first designated player signing.
The 28-year-old Vela has been at Real Sociedad in Spain’s La Liga since 2011, scoring 72 goals in 230 appearances. He was previously under contract with Arsenal, but went on loan to several clubs.
Real Sociedad confirmed Vela’s departure to MLS on its website, but didn’t announce his exact destination. Vela will stay in Spain until January, the Basque club said.
Vela is a winger who should provide scoring punch for the expansion club, which hired former U.S. national team boss Bob Bradley as its first coach last month. LAFC still must assemble an entire MLS roster around Vela, but has approximately six months to do so.
Vela has made 55 appearances and scored 17 goals for Mexico, although he had a three-year gap in his commitment to El Tri before late 2014.
El Tri coach Juan Carlos Osorio has encouraged his top players to stay in Europe, but Vela is the second big name to move stateside this summer.
The LA Galaxy acquired Mexican star Jonathan Dos Santos from Spain’s Villarreal last month, teaming him with older brother Giovani, who has been at the Galaxy since 2015.
Vela should appeal to Los Angeles’ vast Latino population as LAFC begins its competition for fans with the LA Galaxy, the five-time MLS champions.
LAFC made no secret of its hope to sign a major international star to make a splash in the nation’s second-largest city, but was unsuccessful in its pursuit of Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who instead went to West Ham. LAFC also pursued midfielder Andres Guardado, who went to Real Betis.