LA's New Franchise Could Make Or Break MLS

Will Chivas' rebranded franchise hurt or help MLS moving forward?
by Roy Rosell   |   Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Galaxy of Angels – column on Los Angeles Galaxy (LA Galaxy) & the LA soccer scene.

Following the 2014 season, Chivas USA will be no more. After several failed seasons where the team walked a dangerous line between racism and "cultural concentration" and saw decent attendances from the recent past disintegrate, leaving Chivas USA with the poorest attendance in the league; the rotting brand has finally been put to rest.

For fans of the league, this news comes as a huge sigh of relief and puts to rest the suspicion that MLS were going to continue beating the dead horse that is Chivas USA by giving the franchise another opportunity to achieve some sort of relevance in LA's professional sports landscape. Thursday's announcement that the league has purchased the team from Chivas Guadalajara owner Jorge Vergara not only put those suspicions to rest, but it has cut loose the anchor that has been holding down the league's growth for the past couple years.

Chivas USA will play under its current name and continue to play at the StubHub Center for 2014 as MLS searches for potential new investors that are willing and able to provide a marketable rebrand, keep the team in the LA market and build a new stadium. In other words, MLS Commissioner Don Garber will likely be looking for filthy rich, soccer savvy owners to give LA the type of high profile rivalry it so deserves

As fantastic as this news is for MLS fans and the LA soccer market, it can very well prove detrimental for the league, as well as for the LA Galaxy. If Garber & Co. fail to make the correct decision with the direction of this franchise, the backlash could prove very damaging to the league as a whole.

Both LA and NYC will be adopting additional franchises come 2015. Though London has 13 professional teams in its city limits, including 6 teams currently in the English Premier League, North American soccer has not yet been able to have 2 teams succeed in the same city. Soccer in the US is not at the popularity level it is in most European and South American countries where having multiple teams per city is permissible due to the die hard dedication from each team's respective fan bases.

Though Seattle and Portland deserve global recognition for their fan support and Kansas City fans have created a daunting environment for away teams, most other franchises struggle to bring in the fans on a consistent basis. In the past couple years, these teams have boasted international superstars Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Tim Cahill, David Beckham and an array of international and domestic stalwarts. Unfortunately, the on-field product hasn't translated in to the stands as both NYC and LA consistently fail to sell out their modest sized stadiums on a regular basis.

In 2013, NY Red Bulls averaged less than 20,000 fans per game in their 25,189 capacity stadium. On the opposite coast, the LA Galaxy averaged just above 20,000 in their 27,000 capacity stadium. In each case, over 20% of the stadium's seats remain unfilled for the average game.

Though the argument (and the hope) will be that bringing in additional teams to each of these markets will spark rivalries, it is possible that adding an extra team to cities that have had difficulties filling stadiums will further dilute already fickle fan bases, leaving 2 half filled stadiums.

2015 will truly be a make or break year for Major League Soccer. Fortunately, the league is starting to turn away from the conservative growth model and is taking bigger and more exciting risks than ever before. If MLS gets it right, next season will be an enormous step towards global competitiveness and widespread domestic awareness for the league. If it doesn’t, MLS may well be in a hole that could be a bit too deep to dig themselves out of. 

Roy ROSELL

Nationality:
USA
College:
Cal Poly Pomona
Club Domestic:
LA Galaxy
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Absolute fanatic, especially passionate about MLS and it's growth. LA Galaxy columnist with no filter and a knack for the controversial. Travelled the world watching soccer matches, but there's no place like home.
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