I wrote earlier in the week about what it could mean if Chivas USA were to rebrand. Today we learned that not only is that a reality, MLS has gone forward and purchased Chivas USA. Effective immediately MLS takes operating control of the club with an interim president appointed.
The plan in the coming months is for the league to resell the club to an ownership committed to keeping the club in Los Angeles and getting a stadium built. The press release stated that the league has had initial discussions with interested parties and hopes to finalize an agreement with a group sometime this year. However Garber told reporters that finding an owner by the end of the season is ambitious.
As for the rebranding, the club will retain the Chivas USA branding on a transitional basis until the sale. Chivas ownership was already looking to move away from the current branding before contraction, trademarking the potential identities Los Angeles FC and Los Angeles SC. If they knew this hammer was about to drop, the trademarks are a bit of a mystery. Don Garber said in his press conference that MLS didn't register those trademarks and aren't relevant to today's news.
Garber also put to rest the Stan Kroenke rumors, saying that the days of owners controlling multiple teams are over in MLS (except of course in the case of AEG owning a majority share of the Dynamo). The tabloid rumor of an LA Gunners franchise was always a bit farfetched.
One thing Garber does seem to understand is that the Galaxy do a fine job attracting Hispanic fans in Los Angeles. I wouldn't expect the new version of LA's second franchise to be given a similar slant. Winning and Spanish broadcasts do more to grow your fan base than the way Chivas tried to execute their plan.
Bottom line for Galaxy fans, this means the StubHub Center might finally shed it's second tenant and that the rivalry with Chivas USA is effectively over. The Galaxy are expected to take on Chivas USA in April, with Chivas the home side. Garber believes LA can support two clubs, that it was execution issue not a market issue.
We can expect whatever new club comes out of this to try and establish a new rivalry with the LA Galaxy. Garber told reporters that Chivas records will carry over to the new franchise, so the new owners can inherit a possibly 6+ season losing streak against their preordained rival.
"We thank Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes for their significant commitment to Major League Soccer," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "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."
It's interesting that the league finds it so important to provide the Galaxy with a rival. That may have been true when MLS was anticipating the move of the San Jose Earthquakes to Houston. It hasn't been true since the Earthquakes came back. The old California Clasico didn't take look to get back to full steam, while mismanagement lead to general disinterest in the Chivas series.
If LA2 can build a downtown stadium, build a club that will compete for Western Conference titles, perhaps a rivalry will grow. Looking at past examples of contraction, it's a situation that rarely goes smoothly. The Montreal Expos ended up in Washington DC with a new stadium, essentially an expansion team with a history. When MLS took control of the Miami and Tampa Bay franchises they were folded. The NBA taking control of the New Orleans Hornets has left them with the loss of their branding, star player, and still without a new owner.
It's going to be a process, but the most affected will be the Chivas fans who have stuck with their club this whole time. How many of them are Guadalajara fans who will not transfer over to a new club? How many of them wanted an alternative to the Galaxy and are excited to see some changes coming for their club?
It's a big day in Los Angeles soccer history.