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An outright embarrassing situation at Chivas USA

Mar 3, 2013, 11:15 AM EDT

Chivas-HDC-attendance

Let’s not sugar coat this thing: the crowd scenes from the Home Depot Center last night are an embarrassment to Major League Soccer.

And everyone knows it.

Chivas USA’s announced attendance was 7,212 … and it looks highly dubious as an actual attendance count. (Teams across all sports routinely announce “tickets distributed” as the attendance, so Chivas USA is doing nothing unusual there.)

But the eyes don’t lie. And the staggering number of empty seats at the Home Depot Center last night had MLS fans and pundits abuzz. Truly, if Chivas USA cannot sell more seats for opening night, on a Saturday, what in the world will some random Wednesday match against Toronto or New England look like?

(In fairness, the picture you see was taken prior to kickoff Saturday; but the picture didn’t look much better 30 minutes into Saturday’s loss.)

This is all on Jorge Vergara, the club owner and the owner of Chivas USA’s mother ship, Chivas de Guadalajara.

The marketing plan is fabulously flawed. It’s always been fabulously flawed, because the hard-wired attachments to the Chivas brand alienates so many potential Latino fans in Southern California.

We could write 4,000 words about the Vergara and how his business model for Chivas USA just hasn’t worked out, but that’s not the point anymore.

(MORE: Why all this matters, because other attractive options are out there)

This has reached a level where Major League Soccer has to seriously consider doing something – and not just adding consultants and hoping to patch up the holes. We are so very far past that.

Franchise relocation, painful as it is, has to become more and more of a real option if Vergara cannot find it in himself (and in his organization) to correct the course. And fast.

(MORE: from last July, “This Chivas thing just not working out”)

  1. pensfan603 - Mar 3, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    They need to move them to sacramento with the Kings, and the point there is already a fan base there it would be great.

  2. footballer4ever - Mar 3, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    It’s about time and past due. MLS gamblef on the ChivasUSA experiment for instant gratification $ucce$$ without realizing how complex this experiment might turn out. Having said that, i hope no future “FCB Miami” or any San Antonio “Rancheros” clubs emerged just to appease a certain population. Football is to unite people, not to alienate them. ChivasUSA is not uniting anyone in any way, shape or form.

    • manchestermiracle - Mar 3, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      “…i hope no future “FCB Miami” or any San Antonio “Rancheros” clubs emerged just to appease a certain population.”

      Isn’t expansion done precisely to “appease” certain populations? You know, the ones without a team who want one. Or were you speaking about demographics rather than locations? I hope not. The only reason Chivas isn’t “uniting” anyone is because they suck on the pitch, not because they have a Mexican flavor.

      • valiantdraws - Mar 3, 2013 at 1:28 PM

        Actually, they don’t have a Mexican flavor at all. They have a Chivas flavor. And a lot of latino soccer fans don’t like Chivas, so why would they get behind Chivas USA? Plus, the latino population is a whole lot more than just Mexican, and non-Mexicans certainly won’t get behind Chivas USA if they are trying to mainly mainly Mexican-based.

      • valiantdraws - Mar 3, 2013 at 1:31 PM

        I mean…if they are trying to be mainly Mexican-based. My bad.

  3. manchestermiracle - Mar 3, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    A relocation would be a worse-case scenario. What’s wrong with just requiring ownership to stop using the team as a farm system for Chivas de Guadalajara? If Vergara declines then force him to sell. There are certainly fans who would support an alternative to the Galaxy, just as there are fans who support the Clippers instead of the Lakers.

    All it takes is ownership dedicated to putting out a good product (yes, I know it took Sterling decades to figure that out). The Southern California market is large enough to support two teams, obviously.

    • pensfan603 - Mar 3, 2013 at 12:29 PM

      im not saying relocation im saying get rid of the team and bring a totally diffrent one to Sacramento who have said they wanted one.

    • wfjackson3 - Mar 3, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      The state of California could eventually support 20 pro teams on their own, way down the road. There is no reason MLS should tolerate this. They have successfully grown the league on the back of operational and marketing excellence. Chivas USA appears to be terrible at both.

      I am not sure how they fix the situation, but it might have to start with a name change. Relocation I am much less sure about.

      • bwholl - Mar 3, 2013 at 8:54 PM

        Chivas has absolutely ruined any goodwill to fans who look at Chivas as an alternative to the Galaxy. I would prefer relocation and then down the road perhaps have a completely new organization expand to LA. If they just rebrand I’m not sure they will be instantly forgiven.

  4. footballer4ever - Mar 3, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    My point is that if MLS is going to add an expansion to any future city just to make sure you don’t alienate or divide soccer fans to start with. For example, Miami getting a club named and backed by FCB, ala Chivas, will not turn on any Real Madrid or any fan who is not a FCB fan. In fact, no FCB would buy into this mockery marketing strategy. A community wants a team then make sure the team represents the city overall and not some outside big football club to expand their own intere$ts only at the expense of hurting the credibility of the league.

  5. pjbowmaster - Mar 3, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Still waiting for Chivas USA to teach us Gringos how to play Futbol…….what a joke of an organization! The sooner they cease to exist, the sooner MLS can move into adulthood. Consider the experiment an indiscretion of youth.

  6. footballer4ever - Mar 3, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Let’s face it, out of all other clubs who are somewhat struggling at the gate and on the field is ChivasUSA. Why continue with the embarrasment , i mean, the sooner MLS comes to action with that realization, the better the league wil be and it won’t be dragged down. In the meantime, put the Rapids, Revolution, and Crew on notice about their own situations too.

    • pensfan603 - Mar 3, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      The rapids and crew do have good ownership groups, i would love to get rid of the crafts but keeping a team in New England is important.

  7. dfstell - Mar 3, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Chivas is why we need to have relegation in American soccer. Then they’re not “the league’s problem” anymore. Screw ‘em. If they can’t run a club that succeeds on the field, they get sent down in favor of someone else who might do a better job.

    • pensfan603 - Mar 3, 2013 at 3:21 PM

      No just no, because then Team that do care like Toronto FC, and Portland (last year) would get relegated when they dont deserve to the right decision is to get Chivas out of the mls.

      • dfstell - Mar 3, 2013 at 7:17 PM

        I don’t want to turn this into a pro-rel argument, but why wouldn’t Toronto deserve to be relegated? I mean….they haven’t exactly run that franchise well the last few years. Portland hasn’t really had a chance yet to figure out if they’re a really good club or if they just have really awesome fans.

        AND….I know that the Portland example is why pro-rel will always be hard in MLS. I mean…they just paid an expansion fee and you expect than an expansion team would struggle the first few years, so it seems a little unfair to relegate they right away. I guess I just wish that Portland would have been promoted naturally to MLS (perhaps at the expense of Chivas) and done so without paying a massive expansion fee to MLS and instead used that expansion fee $$$$ to buy players or invest in facilities or whatever.

  8. footballer4ever - Mar 3, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    Relegation? Single table format? Let’s not beat on a dead horse. The problem is more complex than that to think relegation is the solution.

  9. scubagolfjim - Mar 3, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    A note for the “sports writer” Steve Davis…

    “Franchise relocation, painful as it is, has to become more and more of a real option…”

    Relocation… FROM WHERE? You make one mention of “Southern California” and the video frame is too distorted to actually read, but, WE’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE TO READ A FREAKIN’ VIDEO FRAME TO GET INFORMATION THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED IN THE ARTICLE!

    Maybe learn how to actually write an informative story before you try again. It does appear that all “sports writers” suffer many of the same deficiencies of not being able to write a coherent article concerning an event, but most DO include pertinent information like WHERE IT WAS PLAYED.

    What? You expect readers to have to Google something to find out basic info?

    • pensfan603 - Mar 3, 2013 at 5:15 PM

      Maybe you should do use your brain before you comment LA you idiot, you could of just looked it up not blame steve im guessing he assumed everyone who would read this would be smart enough to know that, or had capable brains to figure it out them self.

    • Steve Davis - Mar 3, 2013 at 11:05 PM

      Oh, you are absolutely correct. Let me go remind myself about how every article about the Golden State Warriors mentions where they play (Oakland). Oh, wait … that hardly ever happens!

      Seriously, my guess is that you found this article on the NBC site. We never know which posts will get “promoted” to the larger, mother sites. Generally speaking, everyone who reads this blog knows where Chivas USA plays, and they certainly know where the Home Depot Center is.

      Now, presumably, you do, too. Glad we could help inform a reader.

    • archlobster - Mar 4, 2013 at 12:32 PM

      So, this dude wins Douche of the Day.

  10. 1historian - Mar 3, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    For fan reaction we take you now to station WGAS and her sister station WGAF.

  11. slxc - Mar 3, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    There are franchises where they can get full stadiums, and with a more original name than a cheap copy. it is urgent to move from the place and changed the name to attract many fans.

  12. footballer4ever - Mar 3, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    Let’s keep it civilized in expressing your disagreement(s) and stay out of personal attacks to the sportswriter or any commentator

    . I am sure steve has paid his dues to be a football sportswriter and we are simply fans or wanna-be know it all…whichever category you fall on.

    Whatever you point is, keep it objective and leave your “passion” in check or for chanting in the football matches.

  13. LasVegasMatt - Mar 3, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    We (Las Vegas) had 8K for a Chivas/Rapids PRESEASON match 2 weeks on a cold (for Vegas standards) night. It’s an absolute disgrace they had so few fans there. This owner is bad for MLS.

    • skrymsli - Mar 4, 2013 at 11:31 PM

      Las Vegas would have my vote for expansion team! I envision some good rivalries with LA and Salt Lake. It would suck to play there in the summer months though.

      Maybe some Qatari bazillionaire could just build an indoor, air-conditioned stadium featuring real grass and maybe a ski lift or two — as a casino side-show. I’m sure it would be less of a fail than Chivas USA.

  14. arabomep - Mar 3, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    The club has chosen to continue its direction of being Chivas de Guadalajara’s farm team. The attendance numbers and lack of fan support is unacceptable. One pathetically bad MLS team at the gate — and catering to a large interest (Hispanics) with a small mirror (Brand Chivas) — is holding the rest of the league back (and so, to an extent, is New England and their lack of a decent stadium).

    Intervention a la Montreal Expos or New Orleans Hornets has to be considered at this point. With 19 teams, MLS is still micromanaging operations (to an extent — central contracts, single-entity, etc.) Couldn’t they convince Vergara to sell the club and either a) move it or b) keep it in Southern California, but rebrand? It’s crystal clear to me, a Galaxy fan, that two L.A. teams can work; it’s also clear that this Chivas experiment is painfully, pathetically bad and needs action to change it — NOW.

  15. drewvt6 - Mar 3, 2013 at 9:55 PM

    By the way, it was probably 72F when the game started last night…not a bad night out for a game.

  16. mdac1012 - Mar 3, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    MLS tried with Chivas, MLS failed with Chivas, they shouldn’t compound the problem by ignoring it.

  17. tylerbetts - Mar 3, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    Grant Wahl is reporting that he has a source that has the actual attendance at 4900, which would include 2100+ free tickets.

    Embarrassing.

  18. planetscotty - Mar 3, 2013 at 10:28 PM

    Change the name to El Tricolor FC and make the colors Green, White, and Red. It would be like Mexico vs. the world in the MLS. Ticket sales would soar.

  19. footballer4ever - Mar 3, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    @ planetscotty

    Dont’t understimate the knowledgeable football fan and worse alone don’t try to fool them. That is what they tried with ChivasUSA and look where that club is facing. Vergaras just like Robert Kraft are mainly interested with Chivas and Patriots respectively and expanding their own brand or agendas.

  20. footballer4ever - Mar 3, 2013 at 11:50 PM

    Steve,

    You are kind in engaging in football conversations with your readers, but really, there is no need to even acknowledge someone who is rude, insulting and ignorant in many ways as that individual.

  21. overtherepermanently - Mar 5, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    This really, really bothers me. I understand MLS was desperate in 2005 and went for the quick buck. But as someone who legitimately cares about this league, seeing one of only 19 clubs being wasted on a Mexican JV team.

    The Chivas concept is flawed in so many ways, the worst of which being that it alienates fans. Splitting your team off from the rest of the league by ethnicity rather than location simply doesn’t jibe with American values. A Hispanic-flavored team, one that plays with the so called “latin flair” (or slow and flop-filled for those of use more partial to the Northern European style) is fine and representative of LA. But one that is an exclusionary as Chivas USA, at least rhetorically, is a horrible idea, and one that doesn’t and shouldn’t work in an American-Canadian league. While reports of “ethnic cleansing” may have been exagerated, the thought process behind it, and how it was communicated, was deeply flawed and has no place in this league.

    It is truly time to fix this problem. Re-branding is a must. As is relocation, whether in LA, or preferrably, outside it. For the dignity of the league, this has to happen. For MLS, a league struggling (slowly but successfully) to get over a crisis of confidence and perception, having a spin-off team from another league is an awful idea. Doubly so when that club is Mexican, against whom we must consistently compare ourselves and find that we will consistently come up short in the near term. MLS needs to build the confidence in its own identity so that the Mexican hurdle in CONCACAF can be overcome once and for all. Having Baby Club Chivas around will continue to highlight what a desperate, second rate league MLS was in’05, rather than the vibrant, competitive league it is turning into.

    Thank you Steve for raising this issue. Media heavyweights like yourself are probably the best voice for change right now, next to those who vote by staying home on Chivas game nights.

  22. bottlcaps - Mar 8, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    I think the whole idea the MLS had when the granted Vergara and Chivas a franchise in the MLS was to piggyback the MLS on the Mexican League. After all, the Liga MX, as it’s now known has been around in one form or another for 100 years. It’s fan are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The Guadalajara franchise is a giant in Mexican football.

    The problem with this is that the rise of soccer in the US and recently the increase awareness and success of Mexico on the world stage is due mostly to American marketing efforts.

    It is the efforts of the American owners overseas, and the MLS owners here, that have elevated the worth of their team significantly. Since the MLS inception, and the acquisitions of foreign soccer teams by American sports franchise owners, the marketing efforts to impress these teams into the American sports conscience has lead to an increasing acceptance of soccer closer to the American mainstream.

    While the Abramovitch’s and the Middle east Oil barons have thrown tons of money into soccer teams to acquire top fight players at any cost. It has been American marketing techniques, using not only the staid medias of television and radio, but now, the internet and social interactive media to reach out to fans, increase attendance and, in the bottom line, increase revenue and worth.

    Why is it only this year has Mexican soccer have an English language station covering it;s games (ESPN)? Because the league has a huge following in the US and ESPN wants some of that action, as it does with the EPL.

    But this is far different than how the MLS would envision it;s partnership with Chivas and Vergera, which has been, by any yardstick, an abysmal failure,

    Vergera still has the worth of an MLS franchise in a populous ethnic city that has seen it’s product elevated greatly by the actions and marketing of it’s chief rivals, to cash in on. He should do it quickly.

    There are more cities that want an MLS franchise than there are franchises available. Through the awards process that MLS goes through to award a franchise to a city, it can be a time-consuming and fraught-ful period of time for a potential franchise owner. Much like a liquor license in most states, it may be cheaper to buy one from an existing owner that n to be awarded one through the official process.

    Indeed Vergera’s time with the MLS and it’s fandom will not be from his Chivas legacy, but with the ownership group he sells it to that will go on to promote the rebranded team with a new home, a possible new city and a new following.

    The sooner, the better,

  23. adiaz9201 - Jul 19, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    I would put this franchise in Mexico, think about it, with three franchises in Canada it would make it a unique league on the international level. Lets face it its already a unique league in how we have a Supporters Shield Champion and an MLS Cup Champion. And the player development would get better extracting players from Mexico and abroad the Americas.

    I know Mexico has their own league and they pride themselves in being better then the americans, maybe a deal can be worked out. MLS would grow interest and the fan base would be awesome!!

    Can someone explain why this is not possible?

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