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Further study and perspective on Chivas USA, fatal flaws and a branding fiasco

Feb 24, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at Chivas USA

Like all sports in this country, Major League Soccer remains a work in progress. The learning curve may not be as severe now for MLS, but there are still daily lessons … and surely more ahead.

That’s why we always need to temper our responses to the meaningful or the maddening with a healthy dose of perspective.

No one has beat up on Chivas USA more than I have – but so much of my displeasure was rooted in two damaging elements: the hubris of club ownership at its launch (and the attached disrespect for MLS) and the way Chivas USA leadership stubbornly refused to plot a new course once it became so obvious those original designs were so fatally flawed.

Now, with that said, I don’t blame Chivas USA for trying a novel branding approach.

Major League Soccer has grown through trial and error; not every idea has been a champagne popper, now has it? It’s easy to dog the ideas on the back side, but we really don’t recognize a bad idea as such until we can step back and examine the chalk outline, right?

In other words, you’ll never nail the better ideas without the risk of stumbling over some real clunkers.

If you want to go a little deeper into it all, this is a great place to start.  It’s from SI.com, a special contribution from Keegan Pierce. I know the man; he’s one smart and well-traveled cookie, and he has a truly unique perspective as someone who truly believed in the cause and worked hard to peddle the goods.

Pierce reckons Chivas USA could have possibly worked, but with some substantive changes in the model. (I’ll let you click on the SI.com piece above for those.) The best of his good work is here:

…foreign investors must always remember the importance of allowing a new team to grow its own roots and create its own history and identity. This is not just a question of establishing community ties (which Chivas USA certainly tried to do); it also means making sure that a new club doesn’t feel it is constantly living under the shadow of a parent or older sibling.”

Pierce wasn’t the only one doing so good work on the demise of an idea. From The Goat Parade, a blog on Chivas USA, this is an extensive read on the Jorge Vergara legacy. And as author Alicia Rodriguez says, “it will not be positive.”

And how.

  1. footballer4ever - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:17 PM

    No matter how you slice it, ChivasUSA, America USA or Whatever you attach it to it just turns most people off.

  2. drewvt6 - Feb 25, 2014 at 1:29 AM

    One thing they did do was establish a great connection at the grass roots level. They weren’t able to turn those connections into season ticket holders, but I certainly believe they helped develop a lot of top notch talent in the LA area.

  3. talgrath - Feb 25, 2014 at 2:48 AM

    I think here was the problem from the start, the idea that fans outside of Chivas fans would accept an American club under the thumb of a Mexican one. Sure, Chivas Guadalajara would likely attract Mexican Chivas fans in LA, but where’s the draw for someone that isn’t a fan of Chivas Guadalajara? Even worse, Chivas USA was treated by the main Chivas management as a feeder team, and management never really made the effort to make Chivas anything more than that; a place to dump failed players for a second chance or to pluck more talented players of Mexican ancestry to play for Chivas Guadalajara. The final problem for Chivas USA, was that simply put, LA already has a very successful soccer club, the LA Galaxy; even worse Chivas USA never had their own stadium, they always shared facilities with the Galaxy so there was even less separation between the two in soccer fans in LA. The idea was dumb from day 1, I said it at the time and I’ll continue to say it, there’s no way that idea works in America. If the name Chivas USA was just a name, or even just a minor association between the two it could have been successful, but with their branding leaving a particularly bitter taste in the mouth of anyone not of Latino decent, almost a “screw you” to American soccer, why would anyone root for this team who isn’t a fan of Chivas Guadalajara first and foremost?

  4. overtherepermanently - Feb 25, 2014 at 6:56 AM

    Note to future owners – clubs need to be inclusive. Period. That is something that Chivas never had any intention of being. An authentically local, American club can style have a latin flair – through players, style of play, or the supporters – but it needs to be open to all the community. Aping a foreign club, particularly a Mexican one (for many reasons), is never going to work.

    • soccerphanatic - Feb 25, 2014 at 12:07 PM

      The name was also a huge turnoff for the Hispanic community too. Not every Hispanic soccer fan is a fan of Chivas Guadalajara and using the name Chivas and the colors of the parent club is definitely going to turn some of their potential fan base away. Also, using USA instead of something more local after the Chivas was another deterrent from the team. A casual fan will have no idea where “Chivas USA” is based other than the fact that it’s probably in the US. And that’s just the problems with the name of the club. Hopefully, Manchester City has learned from this experiment and New York City FC will be the successful cross-town rival for the Red Bulls that Chivas was supposed to be for the Galaxy.

  5. njgladiators - Feb 25, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    One must understand that community and fans make the team, not the other way around.

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