The axe has finally fallen on Chivas USA, the Rodney Dangerfield of Major League Soccer. ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle broke the story on Monday that the team will be forced into a minimum two-year hiatus at the end of the current season, during which time the team’s new ownership group will have to rebrand the team and build a soccer-specific stadium for it.
The news was the worst possible outcome for fans of the team including those I spoke to back in February when the league forced then-owner Jorge Vergara to sell the team to MLS. Commissioner Don Garber made a few promises and fans were hopeful that the team would remain in the league until its sale to new owners. Now they’ve lost their team and will be forced to wait until only-god-knows-when for L.A.’s second MLS team to reappear.
Aaron Stollar of The Big Question Show posits an interesting theory about the sale, which has been labelled a hiatus by MLS, an odd choice of words that makes the team sound like a band whose members are taking a break to work on solo albums. He believes it’s possible that Stan Kroenke could buy the team in a powerhouse bid that would also bring the NFL back to L.A.
Kroenke is owner of MLS team Colorado Rapids as well as NFL team St. Louis Rams. He also owns 60 acres of land in Inglewood, CA, which is big enough to build a stadium on. So maybe, just maybe, Kroenke wants to sell the Rapids, purchase CUSA, and build a stadium in Inglewood where the LA2 (as many now refer to post-shutdown CUSA) and the formerly-St.-Louis-Rams-now-LA-Rams (again!) will play.
The scenario put forth by Grant Wahl at Sports Illustrated seems more likely though. Wahl reported on Tuesday that an ownership group comprised of venture capitalist Henry Nguyen, Mandalay Entertainment chairman/CEO Peter Guber (and co-owner of the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Dodgers), ESPN analyst Tom Penn, and businessman Vincent Tan (also owner of Cardiff City F.C. in Wales and FK Sarajevo in Bosnia) will be announced next week as the team’s new owners. All four members were even seen together last week at a Dodger game with ESPN talking-head/former USMNT player Alexi Lalas.
CUSA is reportedly going for $100 million and may move into the LA Memorial Sports Arena in Exposition Park. Such a move would be ideal as it would only require a number of improvements to the stadium, which most recently hosted the national teams of Costa Rica and Guatemala in the Copa Centroamericana final. Other possibilities are new stadiums in downtown L.A. and near the Hollywood Park racetrack, which would most likely keep LA2 out of MLS beyond the two-year mandated hiatus.
The name Vincent Tan should set off alarm bells. Tan purchased Cardiff City, who play in England, in 2010. All was well at first and Cardiff earned a promotion to the Premier League after winning the Power Championship title in the 2012-2013 season. Unfortunately, the team only lasted one season in the EPL and Tan has faced the wrath of Cardiff fans for a number of his controversial decisions including changing the team’s uniform and crest in exchange for financial backing despite fan protests, firing head of recruitment Iain Moody and replacing him with a family friend with little experience, and firing manager Malky Mackay. It sounds like Vergara all over again…
Chivas USA’s final game will be at home on October 26th against the San Jose Earthquakes.