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Chivas USA: this thing just isn’t working

Jul 20, 2012, 11:50 AM EDT

Chivas logo

The New York Times has written this morning about the Southern California derby, this country’s version of the SuperClasico, the L.A. Galaxy vs. Chivas USA.

Andrew Lewellen accurately paints this as Haves vs. Have Nots.

Exhibit A, for instance: the fact that David Beckham’s annual salary ($4 million) is more than the salaries of all Chivas USA players combined.

In the bigger picture, in my mind, what the piece really underscores is that Chivas USA doesn’t work. It’s a failed experiment.

And the natural extension to that hard reality becomes: When will MLS give up and start forcing hands, requiring that the club does something about it?

As the Home Depot’s Center second tenant, Chivas has created precious little awareness or brand identity.

That seems like an odd thing to say since this club was basically constructed on a bold bedrock of the most unique brand identity efforts Major League Soccer has ever seen. In 2005, Chivas USA began playing as a partner club to Chivas de Guadalajara, the popular Mexican club.

Ownership wanted to establish a true Chivas USA brand, one closely attached to the mother club’s philosophies. They desired a heavily Mexican team in MLS, both as a marketing platform and as part of a larger strategy to develop talent for the more valuable Mexican league club.

It hasn’t worked; the whys and wherefores are a different conversation.

Again, for me, it’s about what happens going forward. Because sooner or later, Chivas USA will need to one of two things:

  • Move into its own facility.
  • Relocate to another city and start again – possibly with some remaining attachment to Chivas or possibly on a brand new marketing platform.

None of this is easy, because there are Chivas USA fans in the Los Angeles area. Trouble is, there are just not enough of them, which means a lot of money is being left on the table as potentially lucrative markets around the United States continue to look attractive – and potentially profitable.

  1. drchale - Jul 20, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    I think one thing that Chivas USA overlooked is that despite the fact that “Chivas” is a huge name in Mexico, they risked alienating fans of all the other Mexican teams who might otherwise go to games.

    You can’t build a proper fan base if you immediately alienate a large portion of your market who won’t go to your games simply based on your name.

  2. sluggo271 - Jul 20, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    Please stop calling it a superclasico. It insults the term.

  3. yotesfan3 - Jul 20, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    I think just the fact that they say it’s a mexican team in America scares away fans and investors

    • Steve Davis - Jul 20, 2012 at 3:12 PM

      That may be … but there ARE golden opportunities out there to market to America’s sizable (and always growing) Latino base of fans, sponsors, investors, etc. So, while I see your point, it doesn’t scare everyone. In fact, it appeals to some … but it must be done correctly.

  4. bobinkc - Jul 20, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    Steve, the only problem with your theory is that, if the league requires Chivas to step up and start signing multimillion dollar players, they will have to force other teams to do the same. I for one am perfectly happy with the guys Sporting Kansas City puts on the field. None of them have the big head; they all at least seem to love their fans; they all appear to be humble men who enjoy the sport and realize that they are not perfect, unlike some players who could be named.

    If you want to ruin professional soccer (and women’s soccer) here in the United States, blow that same horn over and over. My personal belief is that a number of team owners would pull out and drop their teams rather than be forced to pay the prices you seem to want them to pay. If I am wrong, please let me know.

    In the mean time, let’s just keep enjoying the sport as played here and try to ignore the highly-paid babies. They may have been worth it 16 years ago, but what a price to pay to maintain the sport!

    • Steve Davis - Jul 20, 2012 at 2:36 PM

      No, I think maybe you misunderstand. Or I didn’t explain well enough. I LIKE diversity in competitive approach. Columbus doesn’t have to be LA, for instance. And I love RSL’s approach, too … no major, marquee stars there. But it IS about going all in in terms of a stadium. As Dwayne De Rosario said it so well, when teams have a stadium, people take you more seriously. Succinct. Perfect. The Chivas USA organization seems to be half-in. I just want them to get a stadium and find a marketing/branding strategy that functions. Signing DPs and such? Nah. You can win without em. For now, at least.

      • bobinkc - Jul 20, 2012 at 3:49 PM

        Gotcha! I DID miss your point. When SKC opened up in Livestrong, the whole area went nuts! I don’t think we have had a game since midway last year that hasn’t been sold out and a lot of them are standing-room-only. The park is beautiful. Now that the pitch is into its second season, it is firming up nicely and doesn’t get destroyed on every slide. There is plenty to eat, a team store, suites, the whole nine yards (LOL).

        The only thing I didn’t appreciate in the new park is how the Hispanic families have been aced out of attendance as a result of the higher ticket prices. When we were still in Community America Ball Park, the field was pathetic, but many Hispanic families could scrape up the bucks to attend at least one game per season. Now you see hardly any, even in the cheap seats or the standing room area.

  5. berlintexas - Jul 20, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    So MLS put a second team in a market no one was asking for and then named them after another famous team. I’m surprised that didn’t work. How about move them to New York and rebrand them the Cosmos?

  6. davebrett99 - Jul 20, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    I say move Chivas USA to Orlando. Orlando is a just what MLS needs: a city in the southeast that doesn’t have to compete against baseball and football.

    Steve, do you think Jorge Vergara would join with the investors who are running the minor league team in Orlando to build a soccer specific stadium there?

  7. sir1389 - Jul 20, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    I understand the ethnic make up of Southern California played a role in this but if you were going to try and build upon an already existing franchise rather than create your own, why not have a Man United USA? Or an FC Barcelona USA to keep the Spanish theme?

  8. drewvt6 - Jul 20, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    I think if you only speak English you’re missing out on a lot of the brand recognition attempts ChivasUSA is making. They have made some pretty big grassroots efforts in SoCal and heavily sponsor the youth leagues and hispanic Adult leagues. They work with Univision and Azteca-America to put highlights of those leagues on TV and to distribute tickets within those networks. I think Sueno-MLS is where they’ve made the biggest impact on a league wide level and the players they are nurturing in their Academy system promise to be some of the best in MLS and for the United States.

    I say keep them in SoCal and if they must move, go to the Long Beach harborfront area.

    • sdbeisbol - Jul 20, 2012 at 6:24 PM

      Or San Diego lol

      • joeyt360 - Jul 20, 2012 at 6:37 PM

        In San Diego you’ve got competition from the Xolos.

      • sdbeisbol - Jul 22, 2012 at 11:06 AM

        Except hardly anyone in San Diego knows about the Xolos or cares for that matter. I say move Chivas to San Diego and re-brand them to San Diego Sockers since it’s a known name in the city thanks to their 11 indoor championships. The only obstacle is the current indoor Sockers, which Chivas USA would basically have to buy out for their naming rights. If done right I think San Diego could be similar to Portland in terms of attendance and atmosphere.

  9. joeyt360 - Jul 20, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    I also think the team, while needing to do its utmost to secure its own venue, and maybe to market itself slightly more broadly by naming itself something like “Club Deportivo Los Angeles” (which implies ‘Chivas’ but doesn’t say it), they would be fools to leave SoCal entirely. It has by far the most potential of any market for their product.

  10. joeyt360 - Jul 20, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    I hadn’t seen this yet:

    Looks intriguing.

  11. cranespy - Jul 21, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    The perfect location for relocation is MIAMI…..they could become co-tenants of the brand new Marlins stadium that routinely is less than half full. They would have no soccer competition there and with the significant number of Latino, Cuban, Brazilian, Venezuelan and Argentine residents among the South Florida populace bring in a Ronaldhino or Ronaldo and well the folks at Marlins stadium would at least have opportunity to fill the stands for something!

    • pensfan603 - Jul 21, 2012 at 9:17 AM

      This article is bad as a whole.. this is an old story it seems like he took something that has happened and tried to lie to the community about it.. in i think late june Chivas admited that their Latin American plan wasnt working and they were likely going to try to change branding and such at the end of the year.. also Danny Califf, Danny Kennedy are they latin american no i think the commenters are focusing to much on that..

      • Steve Davis - Jul 21, 2012 at 12:16 PM

        You’re correct, that people have talked about this for some time. So, it’s not “new” in that regard. But a lot of stories aren’t “new” that still deserve attention. The issues at D.C. United and the dire need for a stadium aren’t “new” either, but it remains a topical talking point. As long as there are other venues interested in MLS, this is fair game.
        One responsibility of journalists is to keep pressing issues, to hold officials’ feet to the fire.
        And by the way, talking about stadiums in preliminary ways is NOT going “all in.” They’ve been talking about a stadium in DC for years but just can’t get the stars aligned.

  12. footballer4ever - Jul 21, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    With all due respect to Mexican football and its fans, but naming a new MLS franchise after a storied Mexican football club is/was a disaster in the making in the long term. That was a cheap/easy & sleazy way to try to get a new MLS team started hoping for immediate long term success. We need originality in our league and not have to rely to use other countries “sister-based clubs” like Chivas USA or any FCB Miami as it was attempted. As a football fan, i want originality and not a copycat version club. MLS does not need this type of marketing and it will only hinder the league’s credibility and cache that it’s trying hard to build their own history.

  13. SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Jul 21, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    Chivas is in the second biggest market with the biggest Mexican population. Chivas makes sense. My problem with the club is not the stadium issue (which is huge considering they’re in a huge spread out city) but with the teams identity. Using USA in the name is NOT connecting with Mexicans or Mexican Americans. One thing, the identity of Chivas doesn’t mean in the US what it does in Mexico. USA seems to be for ALL Mexicans to feel they connect with Chivas no matter where they live, in the “USA”.

    So, if you’re a Mexican but don’t like Chivas but like Atlas instead, you’ll never go to see Chivas or identify with it. Using “USA” comes across as nationalistic a little xenophobic and alienating to most hispanic immigrants and average citizens.

    Chivas NEEDS to change the name to Chivas Los Angeles or Chivas LA. The name Los Angeles carries so much prestige and power with it (plus it’s Spanish!) that not using it is confusing and weird. Ask yourself who’d you rather identify with, Chivas USA or Chivas Los Angeles? Make it about the hometown and it’s communities where the average person can feel an allegiance not about how much of the Mexican soccer market in the whole country you can exploit.

    I think it’s great that they expanded into the US, but it has come across as clumsy as if an American team tried to go to Mexico and use it’s American strategy in Mexico. Lost in translation.

  14. chadmoon1 - Jul 23, 2012 at 1:00 AM

    Chivas USA was a dumbass idea from the start. They went into an area with a team there already, and at that time the Galaxy was struggling to fill HDC. So cannibalize an area that already wasn’t selling out? Stupid!!

    Then they do the alienation of any Hispanic fan that’s not a fan of Chivas. Stupid 2X’s!!

    Then about the players. Chivas is famous and loved in Mexico because they only employ Mexican players. So what does Chivas USA do? If they are in the US, shouldn’t they have only American players? Maybe of Latin decent, maybe not. But what do they do? Americans, Mexicans, Central Americans, players from the Carribean, and everywhere else. Stupid times 3!!!

    Can you fix stupid? It will have to be with a new name not tied to a Mexican team in a new city. It is a joke watching the games and seeing tarps on all of the seats behind one goal, and no one sitting in the upper deck. On the games FC Dallas plays against them, I’ll bet there weren’t more than 4k in the stands, and that’s generous. Move and change and then maybe the team will be worth something.

    But under no circumstances should any MLS team go to Florida again!!! That would be the stupidest thing of all! It’s already failed!

  15. footballer4ever - Jul 23, 2012 at 1:52 AM

    The Florida market is a volatile sports market area. If MLS ever decides to come back to Florida, they better make sure the specific soccer stadium is built taking in consideration the hot, humid, and rainy season which tends to discourage attendance. Not talking domed stadium, but a retractable roof soccer specific stadium.

  16. themajorleagueblog - Jul 23, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    If I controlled the MLS, I’d move the club to San Diego. Big metropolitan area, closer ties to Mexico, potential games in Tijuana, sole tenant, and more possible revenue

    • joeyt360 - Jul 23, 2012 at 8:32 PM

      Arguably they missed their window for that, though. They could have done it before there was a major team in Tijuana to fight for San Diego’s fans.

  17. knowyrproduct - Jul 26, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    This team was never a good idea for all the reasons pointed out here. They were pointed out in 2004 in various message boards all over the Internet and all we heard was “SHHHH it’s Mexican it’ll be awesome.”

    Anyone could have seen this mess coming and a lot of people did, but the league needed money and Vergara’s check didn’t bounce. He went from boasting in the media that his team could sell out QualComm Stadium in San Diego to high-tailing it back to Mexico and letting poor old Antonio Cue to take all the flack. Honestly, has Vergara been at any event related to Chivas USA or MLS since 2005?
    Nobody has ever made it clear what the relationship is between Chivas USA and the Mothership south of the border. Why have their never been any loans or young Mexican Chivas players coming north to play for the LA branch? Chivas USA got dressed up in its dad’s clothes and got left out to dry.

    Spinoff teams are a mistake. If they want to market themselves to the Latino demographic, more power to them, but the way to do it would be with a name like CD LA or CD California. LA has more than soccer fans to support two teams, it’s just obvious that the city won’t support a team hyper-focused on only one segment of its population (Chivas Guad fans).

    Now Steve, seeing as we’re saying old issues are worthy of discussion and we’re talking about failing teams- when can we New England fans expect to see a piece about Bob Kraft’s summer carnival soccer tax write-off team? We’re being outdrawn by the NASL team in San Antonio for chrissakes….

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