MLS, Chivas USA, & NY2: Why The Goats Will Stay In LA

Though the attendance for Chivas USA’s home match against the Columbus Crew was announced at 7,121; it is easy to believe there may have been less inside the Home Depot Center.

It is also easy to believe that the single game attendances for 2013 will not improve much at all this season. Perhaps, the new-look Goats will be able to pull in five figure crowds with ties against New York Red Bulls, Seattle Sounders or HDC rivals LA Galaxy. But barring a miraculous, improbable playoff run, Chivas USA will almost certainly have the lowest attendance for the second straight MLS season.

Will The Cosmos Be NY2?

Of course, the club’s problems are much publicized thanks to MajorLeagueSoccerTalk and other media outlets. And for once I found myself agreeing with Alexi Lalas during Sunday night’s ESPN MLS Showcase match. He questioned the validity of a US-based team having a system of only recruiting players of Hispanic or Mexican descent. Chivas also played seven first-time MLS’ers in the starting XI for the opener against the Crew. Their roster has almost completely changed from their 2012 incarnation.

Don Garber has addressed the Goats situation before, but the club’s low attendance was a complete embarrassment for the league on opening weekend. As the cameras panned around the stadium, showing empty seat after empty seat, one could only imagine what followed - a dire match that featured a once good team that has hopelessly imploded.

At the same time, however, the scene Saturday night reinforced an ever-apparent notion -  MLS made a grave mistake putting a second team in Los Angeles whose only interest was in attracting a limited group of fans. Rather than focusing on a large Hispanic community, even today the Chivas brand only targets fans of the original Mexican club, a major faux pas in marketing.

But what if MLS’s hierarchy and the Goats’ owner Jorge Vergara have already discussed the club moving cities, or even re-branding? Anything here is just conjecture, but what if we explore something a little off the beaten track. What if we explore a possible connection between Chivas USA and Major League Soccer’s aspirations for another dual team city? Again this is only conjecture, a mere theory, but one that continues to intrigue me as things spiral out of control on the West Coast.

Garber and Company have their hearts set on putting a second franchise in New York City. The chances of a New York franchise joining MLS grows with every rumor of a new team entering the US and Canada’s top-flight of soccer. Whether this franchise is awarded to the newly-restored New York Cosmos or to another ownership group, the securing of a stadium deal is only one of the major stumbling blocks preventing Garber from getting his wish. The Cosmos will soon begin play in the North American Soccer League at Hofstra University’s James Shuart Stadium. Though a stadium in Flushing area near Citi Field is what MLS currently wants, it seems the Cosmos’ ownership favors a move near Belmont Park.

Let’s see who gets their way in this disagreement. I’m banking on Garber as he does hold all the cards. Also, let’s be clear that I am personally not opposed to the Cosmos joining MLS. I am, however, cautious over whether enough people will truly care. The people who supported the Cosmos from the 60′s through the 80′s have most likely moved on.

Many fans of MLS have been opposed to a second New York team. One reason has been the Red Bulls’ inability to sellout Red Bull Arena on a consistent basis. Another is the perceived indifference of many New Yorkers in following the club at all. Even with Thierry Henry or (gasp) Rafa Marquez, the city is largely ignorant to the Red Bulls. So why does New York City need a second club if the first team has a difficulty in drawing fans? Won’t this devastate the Red Bulls even further?

Ah, but here is the caveat: Los Angeles has already proven that two teams can live in one city to a certain extent. Even though it’s a situation where the smaller franchise struggles in every area in which the larger (and more financially secure) one succeeds, Chivas USA is surviving.

This leads to the ultimate gambit, that MLS needs Chivas to remain in Los Angeles. Chivas USA leaving the HDC and the Los Angeles area would become an easy mark for fans and detractors alike to assert that two clubs cannot survive in one city. It then follows that, if the Cosmos want to be a part of the league, Garber and the league will do everything in its power to keep Chivas USA in Los Angeles.

The original Chivas de Guadalajara has a great history and so does the original Cosmos. But if Chivas USA cannot draw based on its lineage, there is every chance the Cosmos won’t be able to do it either. Just imagine if it’s a brand new team with no existing tradition or heritage. Moving Chivas before the second NY team opens play will leave the league open for criticism it doesn’t want.

Despite the league’s worst attendance last season and a poor product in recent memory, in my estimation nothing may change for some years to come at Chivas USA. The league is desperate for that second New York team, but just as Chivas is failing on and off the field, this situation looks damning for the future of a second New York team. Even more so, it’s looking bad on the league. Again, this is only an idea of what MLS may be thinking. At the very least, it puts the idea forward - once again - that one city cannot support two MLS teams in this era.

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21 Responses to MLS, Chivas USA, & NY2: Why The Goats Will Stay In LA

  1. AL says:

    That’s why Chivas will stay in L.A. because N.Y. is getting two teams. They may end up rebranding the name Chivas into the L.A. Aztecs.

  2. Miami22 says:

    Garber and Jorge Vergara needs to get real, if they want this Chivas team to have success in Los Angeles, they’ll need to get this team out of the HDC and place in in the middle of an hispanic commuinty. They would also need to give this team an identity relating more to Los Angeles, while still keeping the Chivas name. Also Garber and Vergara must realize this, just because you are Mexican, it does not mean you are a Chivas fan. Market the team this team more to their Los Angeles roots while not focusing so much on the Chivas brand.

  3. The original Tom says:

    I have never lived in a huge city like New York or LA, but if I did, my team would be which ever one was closer to my location. Considering that, I think there is a big difference between having two teams in the same city but different stadiums, and two teams in the same stadium. Chivas need to leave the HDC and go to a different part of LA.

    If I lived on Long Island or Queens, my team becomes the team that moves there. If I live in Jersey or near the train to RB Arena, my team remains the Red Bulls.

    As far as Chivas branding, it was a mistake to pair with a specific Mexican club, but I don’t think it is a mistake to have a Spanish speaking team. It doesn’t have to be race or ethnic based, but just language based. You can recruit Anglo players, but just let them know that coaches and marketing are primarily in Spanish, so if you don’t speak that language you’ll need to start learning it. Call them LA Chivas, or if that is not enough of a restart, California Aztecs.

    • Drew Farmer says:

      I think the “team that’s closest” isn’t something a lot of Americans do. I always thank of the people in the Midwest (KC area where I’m originally from) who love the Yankees or Red Sox or Broncos. I think people similar to you maybe in the minority… but perhaps the US soccer scene is a little different.

    • Alistair says:

      I agree they should be called the LA Aztecs or the California Surf.

  4. Estefan says:

    I wonder if the problem with CUSA is not only that they’re in the same city as LA Galaxy, but that they’re in the same stadium. Didn’t work for the Los Angeles Angels back in the 60′s (shared with the Dodgers if I’m not mistaken), don’t think it’s working here.

    Move the team to another neighborhood. Work on building the team’s own identity, and for crying out loud keep a coach and some players. It’s like the team is an expansion side every year!

    It seems like Seattle may be a decent place to try a second team in the same city. Don’t believe that the investment for a stadium would be there (at least locally), but if anyone can’t see what a goldmine of a soccer investment that market is, then I don’t know what to say to that!

    When soccer (football) was in it’s beginnings in Europe and South America, the teams sprouted and grew where the interest was, not based on some pie-chart demographic study.

    Witness London, England with 5 premier level clubs; Manchester with two. Buenos Aires, Argentina with River Plate, Boca Juniors, San Lorenzo, and more. Sao Paulo, Brazil, Madrid, Spain (with two large clubs), Milan, Italy (two more huge clubs).

    Why did the growth happen in this manner? Because the interest was there!

    Go where the interest is, build the fan base and watch it go. Forget about the southeast (Florida in particular), maybe NY 2. How about Oregon 2, Washington 2, California Bay Area 2 (Fresno?). Indianapolis? (U of I has 8 men’s national championships). Chappel Hill (N.C.)? Look at the success of Wake Forest, U.N.C. (Men’s and Womens). Maryland (move D.C. United… please)!

    Anyway… made my points I think…

    • Charles says:

      I hear ya, but we don’t need a second team in Seattle.
      NY and LA are HUGE cities, and the potential is very big, the money is already bigger.

      Seattle just has a greater percentage that are smart enough to care about soccer.

      I think two teams in NY and LA will work well because it puts them down in terms of advantanges over Columbus. Build the rest of the smaller cities up to Seattle’s level and you have an even greater league.

    • K says:

      Chivas should move to east la or maybe even the inland empire and then rebrand.

      Either LA Aztecs or maybe something like Inland Empire FC or Los Angeles City FC

  5. K says:

    Can’t see the Cosmos joining the MLS. They’ve made it very clear they aren’t interested in joining this single entity business.

    i actually think the NASL appeals to a lot of soccer fans who have rejected MLS. It will take a few years for the league to get going. They will have to get on TV of course.

  6. Yak says:

    I agree that it’s more a matter of sharing the same facilities rather than the same city. Geography is what creates loyalty in most cases. Red Bulls are almost as much of an embarrassment to MLS as Chivas, given their inability to get fans to come to the continent’s most beautiful soccer-specific stadium to see one of the greatest players ever. In fact, the entire country east of the rockies is becoming irrelevant. The eastern conference will never win another MLS Cup. You heard it here first. I can see MLS evolving into a hugely popular western league, much as professional lacrosse is limited mainly to the northeast.

    • Estefan says:

      Dude, Columbus just won MLS cup in 2008, that was only four seasons ago. Incidentally, who was their opponent in the final? RBNY. Not from the west. Also, who was the Supporter’s Shield winner the next season (2009)? Columbus. Not from the west…

      If it weren’t for this idiotic playoff system, K.C. would have made a very real run for the championship just last season (2012). They were clearly one of the two best teams in the league (along with SJ - who I love)!

      Granted, the east-coast owner groups have done a piss poor job of putting, and keeping competive sides together, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll stay that way. Put a quality team out on the pitch and people will begin to show up. Constantly piss around with the roster and coaching staffs (Columbus, Philladelphia, NY, Toronto and Chivas) and you’re going to make fans angry and alienate them; that’s all.

      Philladelphia was beginning to look very promising in in their opening season, then that moron Novak dismantled the squad. Then he was fired and chaos ensued. They now find themselves re-building - already - and really only because of some incredibly stupid leadership at the coaching level. At least they got LeToux back. That’ll make the fans happy

      • Yak says:

        I’ll get back to you after the west wins another one this season.

      • Charles says:

        Some smack talk, you gonna put up with that Estafan.

        I agree with Estafan btw Yak. The East had a higher average PPG last year than the West. Now there are many factors that go into this ( too many ties could cause this ), but the East teams were very good last year and many improved.

  7. MJ says:

    Move Chivas to San Diego. huge soccer market, by the border, it will expand the fan base and give a hungry sports city something to cheer for. done deal

  8. Gazza says:

    Second team in NY?

    What’s the name of the first team that plays in New York?

  9. john says:

    Just change the name to

    LA Chivas
    Los Angeles Chivas

    Chivas USA is stupid, and what LA Hispanic wants to support a team with USA in the name?

    Think if Arsenal had a MLS team called Gunners USA- bad
    LA Gunners - good

    Spurs USA - bad
    LA Spurs - good

    Reds USA- bad
    LA Reds - good

    • Bob says:

      Reds USA IS a bad idea. It would, to some folks here in the States, have an unsavory connotation. As if the club were to be run by commies.

  10. john says:

    Plus I believe most foreign players don’t even realize CHIVAS USA are in LA. Though most only want to live in LA or NY.

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