Major League Soccer today announced that it has purchased the troubled Chivas USA franchise from owners Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes.
This begins a new chapter for the Chivas de Guadalajara owned club, which entered the league in 2005, and has struggled since then to establish itself in the shadow of the Los Angeles Galaxy, their co-tenant at the StubHub Center, formerly the Home Depot Center.
The club became something of an embarrassment to the league when two former academy coaches sued for discrimination, citing a lack of opportunities to advance because they were not Hispanic.
Many felt that the club had set itself up for such charges with a stated policy of signing predominantly Hispanic players. Chivas USA’s parent club, Chivas de Guadalajara, has long had its own policy of playing only Mexican players in the Mexican league.
Despite their best efforts Chivas were unable to lure the sizeable Mexican and Mexican American fanbase in the Los Angeles area, clearly the point of the Chivas affiliation.
Last season the Goats were by far the poorest drawing club in the league, luring just over 8,000 fans per game to the StubHub Center in Carson, California. That figure was a sizeable drop from the 13,000 per that they had attracted the previous season, and far behind the Galaxy, who averaged 22,000 plus at the clubs shared home in 2013.
In their statement MLS Commissioner Don Garber is quoted as saying “We thank Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes for their significant commitment to Major League Soccer, Jorge was an early believer in the league and he and Angelica have been great partners in MLS. We collectively agreed that it is best to sell the club to new owners who are committed to securing a new stadium and providing MLS with a strong rival for the LA Galaxy.”
The statement added that, “in connection with the sale of the club to a new owner, MLS also will lead the discussions for a new stadium that would serve as the new home for the team. The club has played its home games at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., since debuting in 2005 and will continue to play there in 2014.”
The team will continue under the current name for now, although trademark papers were filed recently that indicated a name change to either Los Angeles F.C. or Los Angeles SC.
The statement reveals that MLS has had initial discussions with a number of what they call, “very qualified,” potential owners. Not surprisingly no names were attached, but Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke’s recent purchase of 60 acres of land in Los Angeles vaults “Silent Stan” to top spot on the rumor queue.
Initial speculation centered on Kroenke’s NFL team, the St. Louis Rams returning to Los Angeles from the midwest. True to form, Kroenke has remained tight lipped, but this Chivas development dovetails nicely with speculation that Kroenke, who also owns English Premier League club Arsenal, was interested in founding an MLS club that would be called the Los Angeles Gunners.