Chivas USA beat San Jose 1-0 on Sunday. And now they don't exist.
"Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber announced today a new strategy for the Los Angeles market," said the league's website on Monday in a statement that sounds more the introduction of a revamped McDonald's menu than the shutting down of a sports team. But with this announcement, Chivas USA, which began as an attempt to draw fans of popular Mexican club Chivas Guadalajara to MLS exactly 10 years ago, become the third MLS franchise to be shut down after the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny were axed in 2001. Which is actually an amazingly small number.
The club's players will be divided up between the other teams in the league through a dispersal draft (not to be confused with MLS's expansion drafts, allocation draft, re-entry draft, supplemental draft or SuperDraft) and the youth academy will be closed next year. As a result of Chivas USA disappearing just as Orlando City and New York City are set to join the league, the Eastern and Western Conferences have been realigned so each will have 10 teams for the 2015 season.
Sporting KC will move to the West with the Houston Dynamo, setting them up for a solid Oregon Trail joke.
The LA Galaxy will not be MLS's sole Los Angeles presence for long, though. A new LA club, reportedly with an ownership group featuring Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan, will begin play in 2017 along with the new Atlanta club (and maybe David Beckham's floundering Miami project?).
Though Chivas USA maintained a small band of dedicated supporters until the end, it won't take long for the club to be almost completely forgotten. The club's high point was having the second best record in the 2007 MLS season, a year after Bob Bradley won the league's coach of the year award for reviving them before going on to coach the U.S. national team. The club's average attendance peaked at 19,840 in 2006, but with MLS forcibly buying out CD Guadalajara owner Jorge Vergara amidst a discrimination lawsuit earlier this year, average attendance hit a new low of 7,063 in the final season.
It was a failed experiment and one that was rightly ended, but it also highlights just how incredibly successful MLS has been in its short history of trying to establish itself in a country that supposedly didn't care about its sport. It wasn't too long ago that two ownership groups owned a total of nine of the league's teams all at the same time. Now new owners are paying up to $100 million for expansion rights. So while the end of Chivas USA might be seen as a step backwards for the league, it comes in the midst of 10 steps forward.
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