Chivas USA ceased operations on Monday after 10 troubled and unsuccessful years in Major League Soccer, with the league planning a new franchise for Los Angeles that will begin play in 2017 with new ownership and a new soccer-specific stadium.
The league's Board of Governors unanimously decided to shut down Chivas USA after reviewing a new plan for the Los Angeles market. As a result, the league will have 20 teams in the 2015 season, including new franchises in Orlando and New York City.
“I love Chivas USA with a passion,” Julio Ramos, Pacoima resident and co-founder of the Union Ultras fan club, told KPCC.
Chivas USA played its last game Sunday, beating the San Jose Earthquakes, 1-0. Ramos called it one of the worst days of his life. “We all knew that it was the end of Chivas USA,” he said.
MLS had signaled changes for the team, so Ramos wasn’t surprised Monday when league officials announced they were shutting Chivas USA for two years while it underwent rebranding and new ownership.
Even though he acknowledged that he feels sad, Ramos said the change was needed, because Chivas ownership had failed to invest in players’ salaries and was doing a poor job selling the team to fans.
“Chivas USA was known for a team that only marketed to Latinos, even though a lot of people from many different races would show up for the games,” Ramos said, pointing out that was no way to market a team in a city as diverse as Los Angeles.
“Soccer is like music,” Ramos said. “There is no language and no color. Soccer is worldwide and it should be open.” Ramos added that the Union Ultras want to meet with the new ownership and provide feedback on “how we can become a better and what the team did wrong from our perspective.”
Commissioner Don Garber said MLS will conduct a dispersal draft of the Chivas USA roster before Dec. 1, reports the Associated Press.
The league will re-align its conferences next year, sending Houston and Sporting Kansas City to the Western Conference to create two 10-team conferences. Each team will play 34 regular-season games, with clubs playing a home-and-away series against each team in the opposing conference. Clubs will play each of their nine conference opponents at least twice, plus six more intra-conference games.
The conference lineup will be as follows:
Fans say they’ll stick with the new team that emerges in 2017, according to Angel Mendoza, co-founder of another Chivas fan club, the Black Army. He told KPCC he doesn't know anyone who would jump ship and start supporting the LA Galaxy.
“It’s a superstar club,” Mendoza, of Torrance, said of the Galaxy. “That’s not what we’re about. What we seek to represent is the working-class of Los Angeles. The people’s team.”
Mendoza added, “it’s scary to know the club is gone for two years,” but, he said, “we want an owner that is going to care about our club.”
Mendoza said the Black Army fans plan to show up in the stands with Galaxy rivals, as a way to show “visibility” even though their team will be gone.
Chivas USA finished seventh in the nine-team Western Conference with a 9-19-6 record. The team averaged less than 7,000 for home games this season at StubHub Center in Carson, which it shared with the more successful Los Angeles Galaxy, according to the AP.
Chivas USA was formed in 2004, and MLS announced in February that it had assumed operation of the team from Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes, who have controlled the Mexican club Chivas Guadalajara since 2002 and had a 50 percent interest in Chivas USA.
The pair took operating control of Chivas USA in August 2012 when they bought out former partners Antonio and Lorenzo Cue, who had been running the team.
The team was targeted at Los Angeles' large Hispanic population.
"We found out very quickly that strategy wasn't effective," Garber said on a conference call.
He thanked Chivas USA's past and present ownership, saying they were "really committed to our league." He also thanked the club's players and fans for sticking with the franchise despite its losing record.
Garber said the Chivas USA academy in Bell Gardens will close next June, and the new franchise will launch its own youth academy.
Former Chivas USA youth coaches Daniel Calichman and Theothoros Chronopoulos filed a discrimination lawsuit against the team in 2013, a case that was resolved without a trial.
Details about the new Los Angeles franchise will be announced Thursday. Garber said one of the stadium sites under consideration is on the University of Southern California campus south of downtown. However, he added that it's possible the new stadium won't be located downtown.
"There was enormous interest in purchasing rights to our new team in Los Angeles," he said.
Garber described the new ownership as "really committed and passionate," and he said many of the owners will reside in Los Angeles.
The commissioner said the region deserves another chance at having two MLS teams because of its size, and the large number of soccer fans and interested sponsors.
"Having two teams in Los Angeles doesn't mean that we might not through expansion have teams in many markets," he said.
This story has been updated.