MLS Doubles Down on a Bad Bet

In last night’s MLS Talk podcast, the crew discussed the news broken by Don Garber that MLS was helping Chivas stabilize their geographic situation by seeking a permanent soccer-specific stadium in downtown Los Angles.  Speaking with Abraham Madkour of Sports Business Daily last week, the commissioner used the beleaguered West Coast franchise as an example of the future of the league in terms of infrastructure (h/t The Goat Parade for transcribing):

We’ve got a handful of clubs that we want to put league resources behind, ticket sales help, marketing and other support, particularly the reconfiguration of the ownership group in Los Angeles, with Chivas. We think there is an opportunity to build a stadium in downtown Los Angeles. That’s a team we want to see rise up and create more excitement in the local market.

The comments come at a time when San Jose broke ground (in record setting fashion) on their new soccer-specific stadium and finally there seems to be a little bit of momentum towards new stadiums in DC and New England, the final two holdouts of the football-field-rental era of MLS.  And while Chivas is housed at a stadium built for soccer, its situation is hardly any better than those other teams.  Sharing facilities with the more popular LA Galaxy, the Goats at times seem almost a lower league team that can only use the field when allowed by the owners.  Such sharing arrangements are not uncommon in LA (look at the Clippers and Lakers) but the fact is that the lack of a definitive home, as well as a long-term plan for the franchise overall, has seemingly doomed this once promising franchise to irrelevance.  They enter the 2013 offseason with more questions than answers, a year after looking like they could make a run at the playoffs.

However, Garber’s comments are troubling on a number of different levels.  To say the league office is involved in its management of its franchises is an understatement; in terms of total control Garber is arguably the most powerful commissioner of the five major U.S. sports leagues (who else can change the playoff qualification rules midway through the season without nary a protest).  But their attention towards league management has been incredibly misguided.  While Chivas is a franchise worth saving, fans of original franchises should be aggrieved by the amount of attention the league gives to new (Chivas) and non-existent (second New York team) franchises.  While we do not know all that is going on behind the scenes, the public comments or lack thereof are telling.  Consider the following teams that would love league resources put behind its management:

  • Columbus, who has a great history and fans, but struggles to keep up with major cities like New York and LA in a much smaller market
  • New England, who seem stuck in the early 2000s in terms of stadium and team management due to their Gillette Stadium lease
  • DC who needs a stadium but seemingly only gets the league office to threaten the city

This also brings up another point I have made before, and that is the overall brand of Chivas and the league’s insistence that it is tied to Los Angeles.  While I understand the league’s idea to grab hold of the soccer support from the city of Los Angeles, in a league where so many other cities can support and want to support a top flight soccer team it makes no sense to continue to spend finite resources to secure a second-status team in the same city as one of the league’s premier franchises.  Since the Goats are really a companion team to another league’s franchise, moving them does not strip them of their identity.  In reality, placing them in a city like Las Vegas, San Antonio, or even Phoenix allows them to retain that tie to their more famous brethren.  Before sinking even more limited resources into a tenuous situation, Don Garber and the league office should think more about Chivas USA and what is best for it before only thinking about what is best for a single market.

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20 Responses to MLS Doubles Down on a Bad Bet

  1. newtex says:

    “in terms of total control Garber is arguably the most powerful commissioner of the five major U.S. sports leagues (who else can change the playoff qualification rules midway through the season without nary a protest). ”

    Do you have any evidence that Garber himself did this? Or even evidence that the rules were in fact changed in the middle of the season. The league says the teams were informed of the change before the season even if no one else was.

  2. scantron says:

    They should move the team to San Diego, or any of those you mentioned. It would be best for MLS I feel and for the team to be able to dominate one location.

    • steve_orino says:

      This is the solution I believe would be best. The entire west coast would then have access to a team, from South Cal, North Cal, to Oregon, Wash, & BC.

      Just seems like a natural solution…can Garber see the Forest from the Trees?

  3. Tijuana Robert says:

    The truth of the matter is that there are far more struggling franchises then successful ones. ChivasUSA is a failure and should not exist but under current market forces, CHVUSA is supported by other franchises. Liquidate the team

    • Charles says:

      “The truth of the matter is that there are far more struggling franchises then successful ones.”

      And your evidence is…..? Maybe you just forgot to include it ?

      Here is my thoughts :
      *Shirt sponsorships are all multi million dollar deals.
      *Sounders drew 43,000+ this year at $25 a ticket ( lowballed ) that is $18 million, 1/2 (?) to MLS, that is roughly $500k per team.
      *TV contact with NBC doubles that.
      *Other TV contracts

      Oooops just passed the salary cap and I hadn’t gotten to local revenues……
      already blew Robert’s troll comment to bits.

      Big shock I know.

      • Tijuana Robert says:

        You do know that Sounders have to share 30 cents on the dollar to the league (tix sales), right? Your hard earned money is subsidizing your teams competition. HAHAHAH

        • Charles says:

          See above, I actually thought it was $.50 of every $1.00 and I was ok with it. Just want a real league to have the Sounders win.
          I already know what happens when the Cosmos keep all the money. I went to every game in the 1980s, it was easy, it ended in ’83

          I was looking to see how Tigres is doing ( Sounders face Tigres, Santos and Monterrey in CCL, nice ) and I saw that…
          Tijuana is in second ?
          Now the Sounders HAVE to reach CCL.

  4. Charles says:

    Robert, Garber does NOT have more power than Stern. And the way he is using the power the owners have is to save soccer for a (semi)large group of fans.

    The commish is a figure head for the owners in any league and the league wants two teams in LA. You can think that is wrong, but a team in LA when the league twice as successful means a LOT more money than a team in many of the other areas talked about.

    More people should be in my camp, rooting for the league to go to forty teams, rather than trying to limit the league and hope they put a team in their city in Iowa next.

  5. Juan Carlos says:

    The idea of finding Chivas a stadium in DTLA while the Galaxy plays in Carson is idiotic. I would quit supporting MLS if that were to happen.

    • Charles says:

      Do you not like it because there only needs to be one stadium, or that Chivas is the one to get the downtown stadium ?

      I don’t get what you are saying.

  6. Hue says:

    It’s an interesting dilemma, do you build up the bottom teams by giving them resources, or do you let the successful teams stockpile resources to let them compete. Personally, I think promotion and relegation can fix these failed franchises like chivas, new england, etc. If the teams get relegated, the fans may support their teams MORE because the survival of their team is at least partly dependent on them. I can think of a dozen supporters groups in lower leagues that are better than their mls rivals. Fore example, there is Orlando City, Tampa Bay, and Ft. Lauderdale, all of them have great fan support, (easily better than new england’s), but in the end, only one of those teams is going to be franchised into the mls. And then… there is the new york cosmos. The New Jersey(not new york) redbulls can’t even fill up their stadium when they are in the top half of the table AND have Thierry Henry. If they have one bad season, they will have a tough time pulling 8,000. Honestly, we should relegate the failed franchises and replace them with better lower league ones. After that we move to one table, and get rid of the salary cap. Then if we really wanted too, we could keep the playoff system.

    • Charles says:

      One question in a parity league why would you limit the amount of teams in your league..excluding teams from winning the championship for at least a year ? Seems very stupid biz wise.

      Also, NY finished in last a few years ago, their attendance was below 8k ? Hmmmm, if you say so, the stats are saying you are very wrong however.

    • Charles says:

      Also, I will bet you any amount of money you wanna bet that MLS does NOT stop at 20 teams…there is no way they leave that much money on the table.

  7. Hue says:

    Also, NY finished in last a few years ago, their attendance was below 8k ? Hmmmm, if you say so, the stats are saying you are very wrong however.

    will have, future tense ;)
    but I agree with you mls will likely exceed 20 teams. Even though fifa won’t like that. Although I’m wondering, they already gave the world cup to Qatar, partly because they were mad at us, would they kill fifa sanctioning of mls altogether if they exceeded 20? After all, if the us could break the rules, what would stop a bigger better european league from breaking them?
    As for limiting teams from competing for the mls cup, the franchise system is the most limiting sports league style in existance. In a promotion and relegation system, a village team could win it all. Any team has a a shot at the title, and right now, the NASL champs, and the commisioners cup winners will not even get a chance.

    • Charles says:

      FIFA cares about one thing….I will give you one gue$$.

      They do NOT care about some crazy 20 team max. Litchenstien and the US have the same max teams ? Obviously that is dumb.

      I am for every team that can meet minimum standards playing in first division, every league has these standards, so the only leagues stopping teams from winning are the pro-rel leagues. Where am I wrong ?

  8. Michael says:

    I see MLS sometimes they win and sometime they lost the game but Soccer Expert
    always bet on winners. Better luck next time.

  9. Jim says:

    I just wish we could get a team in/around Cleveland Ohio. Sigh…

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