Talk about a bolt from the blue! Did ANYONE see this coming?! According to MLS, Chivas USA is going to be suspended for TWO YEARS, then re-form as a new club in 2017! This is AMAZING! Can you believe they'd announce something so earth-shaking on the eve of the playoffs?!
Five sentences...yeah, that's how long it took to beat that joke into the ground. Oh well.
I had a bottle of champagne ready for this day, as perhaps the premier Chivas USA hater in the world...but somehow I'm not satisfied. For one thing, it's hard to really get all the Munchkin folk excited when, for all intensive purposes, the Wicked Witch has been a wisp of steam for nigh on eight years. For another, and not that they appreciate my opinion out of anyone's on the planet, but the Black Army has kept its humor about the whole situation. For yet another, the Galaxy have worked diligently in becoming MLS' answer to the Yankees, even when the actual Yankees are putting an actual team in MLS. For still yet another, five years of ignoring American soccer fans in favor of Beckham looky-loos has come home to roost. The Galaxy have literally only themselves to blame for having any empty seats at all since 2011 or so.
And perhaps most importantly, my really good idea to send them to the Inland Empire for a season or two was completely ignored. Fine, whatever, I'm not hurt or anything.
This is not a day for celebration. Or a day for mourning. Or a day for altering your habits or mood in the slightest. The longest-lasting impact of Chivas USA will be Kansas City and Houston moving back to the Western Conference. As Will and Ariel Durant said about the Byzantine Empire, only the dead have died.
And, like the dead, they will rise again, depending on your theology and/or horror movie viewing habits.
“As part of our new strategy for Southern California -- a major hotbed of soccer participation and fan support -- we believe that engaging with a new ownership group which has the resources and local community ties, and a plan for a dedicated soccer-specific stadium, provides us with the best chance for success,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
This was unanimously supported by the Board of Governors, unless MLS has lied to me through e-mail. Which means that, among others, AEG signed off on continued competition in their own, potentially vastly rich market. Ask me if I think their methods are sound. The history of MLS in the 20teens - we need a name for this decade - will be a mixture of rip-roaring success in markets traditionally defined as "small," combined with a dedicated if not monomaniacal crusade to build teams, sometimes redundantly, in notoriously fickle markets, in several cases on the ashes of previous disasters.
The problem with the Ozymandias statue that Vergara and Cue tried to build wasn't necessarily that it was built on a tar pit out of Silly Putty and spinach, although that didn't help. The problem is that there is nothing about the league or the market in 2014 to make one think that the Galaxy are sufficiently Lakers-esque to justify the MLS Clippers. (For our younger readers, the Lakers used to be the popular and successful basketball team in Los Angeles, so much so that for many years the Clippers were able to show profits simply by selling to the Lakers waiting list.)
The fact that MLS is now setting a two-year timetable for the New Kids on the Block is also worrisome. Two years! We might all be dead by then.
On the conference call this afternoon, we learned the following. Consider this a modified limited live-blog.
1. "A new strategy for the LA market" is the euphemism of the day.
2. New ownership group will include people who reside in LA.
3. They still haven't given up on getting their own stadium.
4. We'll have more info on Thursday.
5. Commissioner Garber would like to thank the previous owners. Didn't hear a TWINGE of laughter. Poker-voiced, is our commissioner.
6. We'll talk about Cubo Torres later.
7. Weren't many fans at the end - well, not every dinosaur is ignoring the meteorite.
8. Retroactive justification for expansion teams in 2005. Hey, remember Real Salt Lake? They're doing well. Lessons? What lessons?
9. Targeting specifically the Hispanic market was not effective. Some internal issues. NO kidding.
10. Ground-sharing won't work. New team has plans for own stadium. So did NYCFC.
11. Cues and Vergaras didn't get everything right, but did believe in MLS. These are not contradictory statements.
12. Dispersal draft in the offing. Cubo, Dan Kennedy, and more passes than Peyton Manning, is my guess.
13. New conference alignment. Same as the old conference alignment.
14. Garber thinks that new strategy will be the best opportunity for success, one presumes as opposed to failure.
15. LA CAN support two teams, Loney! We'll show you!
16. Wants to be one of the best leagues in the world by 2022. Oh, you already are! Mm-wah! Mm-wah!
And now we open the floor to questions. I was much to shy to ask anything.
Brian Straus asks why LA gets a second team. Yeah, why? Huh? Why? Why? "What is the formula"?
Don: "Having two teams in LA doesn't mean that we might not through expansion have teams in many markets." LA is passionate and has "large corporate base." Downtown stadium, connected to urban core. "Rivalries matter," Don continues, despite evidence of the past ten years. Rivalry with LA could be successful, he says, based on early days of Superclasico. Garber, apparently lost for examples, includes Cascadia and Seattle vs. LA. Wilt Chamberlain didn't have the kind of reach Don Garber is making here. Seattle and LA aren't competing for fans, except for fans in the Bay Area who might be torn between which MLS team they'd prefer.
Kyle McCarthy: What's the difference between this contraction and the last one?
Don takes this hanging curve to the bleachers, since they do, after all, plan to re-return to Los Angeles, while Florida is still a Beckham-infested wasteland.
Jonathan Tannenwald: Asks about relocating conferences, and competitive balances. I have my own thoughts on this. [CONTRACTED FOR EXTREME BORINGNESS] Actually, Don correctly points out that conference strength is cyclical, so we should get over it. That was what I was going to say. Travel should override short-term competitive concerns. Wasn't that INTERESTING?
Ricardo Lopez: Chivas USA Academy plans? Ooh, great question! Don: academy will close in June 2015. Players in that academy will be siphoned off to Galaxy for a year or so (this is me assuming, Don didn't say as much), and the new team will have a new academy.
Kevin Baxter: So what about this downtown stadium crap? That's within ten miles of Carson, you know. Other LA teams spread out, you know. Don: USC campus is a possibility, which doesn't answer Kevin's question. Could end up in not-downtown. Palmdale FC, here we come! "League has been looking at one particular site for some time," says Don. Probably Antonio Cue's house.
Mark Ziegler: San Diego? Mark is from San Diego Union-Tribune. Would San Diego have worked out? San Diego? Hm? Who are the Xolos? Will we never come to San Diego? We'll settle for OC.
Don: does not preclude stadium in San Diego. Don doesn't know if it would have worked out. I'm sure with the expertise and ability that Jorge Vergara has shown both in Carson and Guadalajara, San DieGoats would have been a world soccer powerhouse. I've stopped paying attention to Don's answer here, so if he's unilaterally declared war on the Empire of Japan and I missed it, I apologize.
Mark: No regrets?
Don: "It's hard to be in the soccer business and have regrets." He feels for the fans and players. I'm sure the comfort temperature of Don's feelings can be registered in single digit Kelvin.
Avi Creditor: Cubo Torres? Dispersal draft? Really? And homegrown players?
Don: "We're talking to Torres about a long-term contract," so you can pretty much forget him in the dispersal draft. Hope you enjoy Jermaine Jones Blind Draw II. Don forgets the homegrown players question, probably because the good news about the Galaxy getting richer is only going to cheer up me and my fellow Galaxy fans. Sorry, suckers.
Scott French: How about those Giants? No, he follows up Avi's question, and asks about Felix Borja, and where will LA2 play while Mythical Stadium is being built?
Don thinks that the ownership will answer the stadium part. I'm intrigued. Garber is really, really setting up the ownership group, whoever the hell they are, to be very impressive about the stadium situation.
Todd Durbin answers about Felix Borja, and brings up, for the first time, the Players Union. Speaking for myself, I'm HUGELY confident that MLSPU will protect the rights of players on a last-place team who drew no fans to speak of.
Scott follows up and asks who will make Torres and Borja decisions. Question status: dodged. Union and contract status is an issue. MLS will try to sell that these players' new team will have Chivas USA's rights. Well, we'll see what Torres and Borja signed, because that sounds like something that would void a contract otherwise.
Don: Cubo had a buyout, Borja does not. I think Cubo will decide where he plays, and that makes him a committee of one on the ex-CUSA roster. Everyone else - don't buy any green bananas.
Paul Tenorio: Dispersal draft question: will Orlando and NYCFC be a part of it? If not, why not, huh? What's the deal?
Don punts to Todd. NYCFC and Orlando would still have the rights to CUSA's 12th and 14th player. Oh, have they ever not thought this through.
Charlie Cuttone, Sportsview: Charlie, I'm sorry, but I couldn't find your outlet, and I have no idea how you spell your name. (At least, until a commenter below came to my belated rescue.) A Bing search was no help. (What's a "Google"?) Also, Charlie apparently asked his question from the Oort Cloud, so I missed it. Sorry, if you're reading.
His second question was about Chivas USA's staff. Oh, that's awkward. I'm sure, though, that they will be warmly welcomed two years from now in the new team, what with the long list of successes they've had so far. I know, it wasn't their fault, but man, if Chivas USA isn't the biggest resume stain outside the Oakland Raiders.
Don apparently heard the first part of the question, and strongly implies that MLS finally got sick of the Vergara's crap, and ten years of embarrassing the entire world was enough. I'm paraphrasing. Oh, you noticed? Or else Vergara got tired of burning money, and wanted to focus on Guadalajara. Don claims a bunch of ownership groups were interested in LA2, and why would he mislead us? Don drops the word "inclusive," which....
So the Galaxy aren't trying to draw an inclusive crowd? Who will LA2 be marketing to that LA1 doesn't want? How will they not compete for the same fan? I should have crashed this call. I don't like stepping on the toes of real journalists, but I should have realized I was needed. Sorry, true believers.
And that's the abrupt end to that.
I call bullcrap, in case you haven't noticed. The history of teams in America competing for the same market is long and bloody. The Mets replaced two teams in New York. The Jets, like the Clippers, have been able to live off the richer, older team's spillover. The Ducks, Angels, Nets and Islanders are afterthought teams barring multi-year dynasties, and even then their fan bases, shall we say, fluctuate. The White Sox have a solid fan base, and are every inch a junior partner.
Meanwhile, Boston, Philadelphia, and St. Louis used to have two baseball teams each. Chicago used to have two football teams. So did Los Angeles, and oh by the way? LA lost them both.
The stadium situation had better not be centered on a USC football practice facility, for what I hope are terribly obvious reasons. If you, MLS fan, don't like being second-billed to the NFL, wait until you get to deal with the University of Southern California. At least the Seahawks and Patriots are also, technically, MLS owners. Giving USC first fruits will be very reminiscent of the days when UCLA got to boss around the Galaxy. For our younger readers, that meant that the Galaxy played Open Cup finals and playoff games in Fullerton, which is roughly five hundred miles away from downtown Los Angeles.
We didn't even talk about rumors that Stan Kroenke (hm, that name sounds familiar) will try to bring the Rams back to Los Angeles with his own stadium, and if there's one thing I know about Californians, it's their unreasonable refusal to tax themselves to pay for stadiums. Building two at once is something that even a semi-competent mayoral and county government should be able to squish like bugs.
I mean, why do you THINK AEG is sinking $15 million to give the StubHub Center a facelift? It's not because they think there will be two or three brand new stadiums available within five years, and I think AEG of all people are in a position to know.
But, since AEG will be one of the recipients of what I assume will be an exorbitant fee to keep the dream of a second MLS team in California alive, I don't think they will go out of their way to let the new ownership in on the secret.
Whoever THEY are. I hope it's someone who has run a soccer team before! Worked great last time!
(EDITED for typos. I added some new ones.)