Los Angeles soccer team Chivas USA folds
LOS ANGELES — Southern California lost another team Monday when Major League Soccer folded the troubled Chivas USA franchise after 10 mostly forgettable seasons.
Team employees were called in to a meeting Monday morning and told the franchise, which has been owned and operated by the league since February, was ceasing operations immediately.
“Unfortunately, our plan for Chivas USA was based on a brand that was targeted to the Hispanic market. We found out very quickly that strategy wasn’t effective,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said of the team, which borrowed its name, its uniform and part of its ownership group from popular Mexican club Chivas of Guadalajara.
But the franchise, which shared a home with the Los Angeles Galaxy, never really caught on, and after making the playoffs four times in its first five seasons, it fell on hard times, averaging less than eight wins over its final five seasons and breaking the league record for lowest average attendance this fall while losing millions of dollars. So the league’s Board of Governors unanimously approved the dissolution of the franchise at its meeting in Los Angeles this month.
Yet Garber remains convinced that Southern California can support two MLS teams. On Thursday, the league will formally award an expansion franchise to a group headed by Vietnamese-American businessman Henry Nguyen; Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber, a co-owner of the Dodgers and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors; and Vincent Tan, the Malaysian owner of British soccer club Cardiff City.
The group pledged to build a soccer-specific stadium — sites under review include Exposition Park, next to the USC campus, and near Los Angeles International Airport — and the new team will begin play in 2017.
“L.A. is a huge market,” Garber said. “It’s got lots and lots of soccer fans. It’s got a very diverse population. It has a lot of sponsors and other corporations that have been engaged in the game and want to be engaged in the game further. And we believe that there’s an opportunity to build a stadium in a downtown location that will connect with an audience that can help elevate the sport.”
With Chivas USA folding and expansion teams in New York City and Orlando joining next season, MLS will realign for 2015 with reigning league champion Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo, a two-time MLS Cup winner, rejoining the Galaxy in the Western Conference.
Chivas USA’s players will be made available to the league’s surviving teams in a dispersal draft next month. The league is also trying to exercise an option it has on Chivas USA’s leading scorer, Erick “Cubo” Torres, who is on loan from Guadalajara.
The franchise’s highly regarded development academy in Bell Gardens, east of Los Angeles, will also be shut down by next summer, with the league promising to seek homes for those players as well.