Saturday, August 27, 2005

Chivas USA's success never in doubt

When the concept of Chivas USA was born, immediately MLS fans were polarized. Those who opposed it saw this as compromising the American identity of the league and pandering to Mexicans, as well as being a lesser version of another team. It seemed like a big overreaction to me, and Ives Galarcep wrote a nice article a year ago saying why he thought so as well. I've always thought it was a good idea. The first sign of that was Jorge Vergara. He actively sought this deal, and came to MLS about buying a team, which makes him unique enough. But in addition to the $10 million expansion fee, he put down an extra $15 million to play in LA rather than San Diego or Chicago. Sure, he has a shady past with selling nutritional suppliments, but he's an exciting figure who believes in what he does. And he's not going to bail on the league.

Of course, the team has struggled on the field. But in the meantime, they have record sponsorship for an MLS team, as businesses know they can reach a Hispanic audience. And they play in a beautiful stadium, and probably have a pretty good lease. Now that they have their reinforcements, they're unlikely to ever be that bad again. And not only on the field, but in the stands too. Giants stadium looked and sounded like a Chivas home game, as their fans came out to support them. It was their only trip to New Jersey, but I'm sure Palencia and JP Garcia brought a few more fans out to the game.

The fans. That was the biggest reason for my optimism about Chivas, and the most important part of the discussion. Mexican-Americans (64% of hispanics) have not been going to MLS games. The first season saw a bunch of hispanic fans come out, they didn't like what they had seen and the league has never equaled those attendance figures. It's frustrating, because there are tons of soccer fans in this country who don't care about MLS. As I've said a million times, if all soccer fans in this country were MLS fans, the league would be huge. I also believe that the league will grow slowly, gaining fans as it gets profitable and improves the quality of play, increases marketing, builds stadiums, etc. I think Mexicans will eventually come around and become fans of the league, especially as their kids grow up with MLS around and aren't as attached to the home country's teams ( and even more with a high-quality MLS).

But that's not going to happen overnight. The genius of Chivas is that you can attract those fans way earlier. They have a built in fan base. You have all these hardcore soccer fans, and it's great to see them watching an MLS game. Chivas fans are some of the best in the league already. It's sad to say this, but there are probably as many hardcore Chivas fans in this country as all MLS teams combined. Especially if you throw out DC and LA.

Chivas USA is a spinoff of the original club, but I don't see any problem with that. If MLS gets bigger and better, then there is no reason they can't become equals. As long as the fans enjoy it and people are making money, then it's fine. It does give them an advantage with Mexican players, but that's offset by limiting their ability to sign other foreigners. And it is an American league, but Mexican culture is becoming a part of this country, and I see no problem in the league reflecting that. Mexicans make up a large percentage of soccer fans in the country anyway.

So you take one of the most popular teams in Mexico, put it in MLS, and just the name alone will get those fans to come out here. Because obviously the team's play isn't attracting them. But like I mentioned earlier, they seem poised to become successful on the field and therefore in the stands as well. If the team is good, and they have quality name players, they will be huge. Next season they will be in prime position to make a run at the title, and it should be fun to watch.

Looking forward to Club America's expansion team...

Comments on "Chivas USA's success never in doubt"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:09 PM, August 27, 2005) : 

I'd rather see Ajax, ManUtd, Chelsea or Real Madrid have an MLS team


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