The Irony of Chivas USA’s Overall Attendance

The Goats’ attendance problems are more complex than one may think
by Omar Avalos   |   Friday, May 24, 2013

Chivas USA, Taylor Fugate Photography

Chivas USA’s attendance problems go beyond the product on the field. The club actually averages more attendance on the road than it does at home.

According to an official MLS Team Attendance Report, it draws more at away games than 4 former MLS Champions (Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo, Real Salt Lake) and one U.S. Open Cup Champion (Seattle Sounders). It also draws more than Vancouver.

I've heard all of the explanations about why Chivas doesn't draw at home. It alienates Mexicans that aren't Chivas fans, it isn't the real Chivas and more.

It's not that simple. Put any other Mexican-owned club in the MLS and it will absolutely fare no better. There aren't many that can expand to MLS with the exception of Grupo Pachuca and Televisa (owners of Club América). Both groups talked about expanding to MLS in the past, but neither could deliver.

At one point, Jesús Martínez, the majority owner of CF Pachuca, talked of expanding to the U.S., but he never made a move, not even fielding a team in the USL as he said he would.

Simply put, Pachuca is not Chivas. The Televisa group couldn't expand into MLS over broadcasting conflicts, thus limiting themselves. In other words, only a club like Chivas can pull off an expansion into another league. Getting to that other league is the first part, succeeding there is an entirely different monster.

Economics

Chivas USA has been referred to as a blue collar team and it very much is. It doesn’t help Chivas that the Home Depot Center is not exactly close to the demographics that the club markets to. That means that people have to drive long distances and spend on gas, before and after they pay $15 to park, and then buy tickets for a family.

Needless to say, Chivas USA’s market is not the most well-healed of the bunch, so it’s a struggle. Then there’s the gouging that the Galaxy does when these teams play each other.

Now Chivas is selling discounted tickets through Redbox locations in its attempt to get closer to people, but the club will always struggle to sell tickets as long as it doesn’t take the stadium to them, and not just try to make inroads through Redbox, or through community outreach programs. Those programs are good, but they haven't translated to increased ticket sales.

Chivas USA has always struggled with selling tickets, and poor performances in recent years have made matters worse, but ironically, it still averages more attendance on the road.

The solution? There's no place like home.

An ideal situation for Chivas has a stadium right in the middle of a town with the demographics that it tries to appeal to. That stadium has to be within a walking distance of that market. Carson, Calif., has a population of 91,714, of which 35,417 (39%) are Latino, according to the 2010 census, and so it is not the most ideal location.

Other hypothetical stadium locations for Chivas USA that have been mentioned are East Los Angeles College, in the City of Monterey Park, which has an Asian majority population of 48%. Pomona, Calif., seems pretty much out of the picture at this point, as no news has come of a possible move there. It has a population of 149,056 of which 71% is Latino, so a move there is understandable but not enough political will exists to move Chivas there. At least, nothing has surfaced recently.

Another city mentioned in the past is Santa Ana, south of Los Angeles proper, which has a population of 324,528 of which 78% is Latino. No city has been as openly proactive about housing Chivas as Santa Ana. A move there makes nothing but sense, especially when coupling this city with nearby Anaheim, which also has a population of over 300,000 and 53% of its population is Latino.

Chivas USA already has players from these 2 cities that have played for the club at different levels. Carlos Borja is from Anaheim, former Sueño MLS winner Jorge Villafaña is from there too and played in Santa Ana as a kid. Daniel Antúnez is from Santa Ana, and recent Sueño MLS winner Armando Flores, who plays in the Chivas USA Academy is also from Santa Ana.

Chivas owner Jorge Vergara and MLS commissioner Don Garber have openly expressed interest in having a stadium for Chivas in Los Angeles proper, at Exposition Park, near the LA Coliseum. Garber admitted to having that location be the most desirable, while not ruling out other locations in Southern California.

The Expo Park plan depends on what the University of Southern California decides to do with the LA Sports Arena and the land on which it sits, as they own a chunk of Exposition Park property and land. That area has an advantage in that it is near mass transit, near the newly-opened Expo Line. The disadvantage is convincing USC to let go of some property.

Wherever the team ends up, if it actually goes somewhere, it is clear that its survival depends on having its own stadium. The ownership and higher-ups have admitted to this in years past. True Chivas USA fans should be happy to retain the club in the LA area, even if that means not having a stadium located in the most coveted location (LA proper), and especially after all of the rumors about selling the club. Those rumors are now debunked and buried. By the way, the Galaxy doesn’t play in LA proper either.

The team you love to hate

Chivas USA draws more away than at home and that is telling of a team that strikes a chord in the psyche of American fans. Americans want to see Chivas, the Mexican team, lose. They want that challenge.

Maybe MLS fans don’t know it, but Chivas’ arrival truly did strike a nerve, and touched on people’s pride. The league higher-ups saw what this arrival could do, saw it as an opportunity, and it worked. Plenty of fans from around the league follow their team to LA to see them take on Chivas. Why should they bother traveling to see their team at Chivas? Because Chivas also provides people a taste of LA.

Chivas arriving in the U.S. meant that soon after other well-known Mexican brands followed. Bimbo and Corona spent big advertising dollars in support of the league. Those brands aren’t confined to Philadelphia and LA, they’re league-wide. Big money spent in support of MLS? You’ve got to love that.

NEXT UP: May 25 - Chivas USA vs. Colorado Rapids, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo. 9:00pm EST, MLS Live.

Omar AVALOS

Nationality:
USA
College:
Cal State Fullerton
Club Domestic:
Chivas USA
Club Foreign:
Manchester United
Guitarist, pianist, musicologist, FIFA 13 nut & Chivas USA writer from Santa Ana, CA. Published in Orange County Register's Latino Link & Santa Ana Register sections. Prefers possession-style attack & individual technique over rapid & aerial play.
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