There’s interesting news coming out of MLS on Thursday as the league announced that it has purchased Chivas USA from Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes effective immediately. The league will assume responsibility for operating the club while it looks for a new ownership group to take over.
MLS stated that it will resell the club to a new ownership group who will be committed to keeping the club in Los Angeles while building a permanent stadium for the club to call their own. Chivas USA will retain their club name during the upcoming season, but will be rebranded once the club is sold to the new owners.
This news is good not just for Chivas USA and their fans, but for the whole of the league. The saying goes “you are only as strong as your weakest link”, and Chivas USA has been the weakest link in MLS for a good chunk of recent history.
Chivas USA made the postseason in four of their first five seasons; in all of those times, the team has lost in the Conference Semifinals. Recently though, it has been a struggle for the club as they finished eighth or worst in the Western Conference with a combined record of 29 wins, 33 draws and 70 losses with a minus-87 goal differential. The club went through five different managers, including three in 2013 alone.
It was very evident at the gate too as Chivas was averaging 15,725 fans per game during the 2009 season, and that number dropped to 8,366 fans per game in 2013, a decrease of 46.8 percent. Numbers like that will not cut it in any sport, let alone a professional one. The commitment to win is not evident in the Chivas camp, but hopefully new ownership will be able to right the ship of this once-proud franchise.
The best part about this sale will be the rebranding. When the club was first announced as Chivas USA, it lifted many eyebrows including my own. How can you expect to gain fans when you are alienating most of the fan base before the club even takes the field?
You cannot expect a fan of Club America living in the Los Angeles area to adopt the colors of Chivas USA, the same color and uniform scheme of parent club Chivas Guadalajara, which happens to be rivals in Mexico with Club America.
It would be like if the Portland Timbers decided to put an associated club in Canada, let’s say Calgary for example, and Merritt Paulson decided to brand the club “Portland Timbers Canada.” Fans of the Seattle Sounders FC in Calgary are surely not going to cheer on the new club despite it being located in their town because of the hatred between two fanbases.
Kudos to Don Garber for stepping in to solve this problem; the league will only be better because of it.