Only 7,121 people bought tickets to watch Chivas USA lose their 2013 home opener 3-0 to the Columbus Crew. Far fewer than that actually bothered to show up.
Even the trumped up official attendance wasn’t enough to avoid making this game the lowest attended home opener in MLS history.
In 8 seasons, the club has only won 10 games in an MLS season 4 times and never been close to winning a MLS Cup or any other major club title. They have not qualified for they playoffs since 2009 and have rarely had any major players worth mentioning.
Chivas USA has failed on and off the field for years and is now a very noticeable eye sore for Major League Soccer. The league has seen tremendous growth in revenue, attendance, merchandising and TV ratings over the past couple of seasons. While teams are filling seats at a record pace, Chivas USA has routinely been tarping off nearly a third of the 27,000 seats in the Home Depot Center to make the tiny crowds look a little less pathetic.
Those optics are an embarrassment for the league and even casual observers of American soccer are starting to notice.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber is urging patience with the club, which is under new ownership and management. However, the original concept may be the problem. Chivas USA was supposed to be a club catered to Mexican-Americans living in Southern California. The team is an off shoot of the wildly popular Mexican League team, C.D. Guadalajara. Nine years ago, it may have seemed like a good idea to give Mexican-Americans a taste of native Mexican atmosphere in Los Angeles with a team just for them. However, with the ubiquitous presence of cable and satellite TV, Mexican soccer fans can easily follow their favorite Mexican League clubs. They don’t need an MLS alternative.
As for Los Angeles itself, the LA Galaxy had already established a base of loyalty before Chivas USA ever existed. Once Landon Donovan and David Beckham signed and the team started winning championships, Chivas USA became even less relevant. They were a minor league team of no-names sharing a stadium and a city with the best team and biggest celebrities MLS has to offer.
Chivas USA will not be in Los Angeles much longer. While their new owner is a wealthy man, he didn’t get that way by throwing money down the toilet as he is now doing in L.A. The question is what to do about the situation.
Option 1 could be to keep the Chivas USA name and Mexican-American outreach concept, but relocate the team to a more favorable market with a large Mexican population like San Diego, Phoenix or San Antonio.
Option 2 could be relocating the franchise and dropping the Chivas USA name and concept. There are dozens of viable cities and no shortage of contestants from Southern California to Florida.
Option 3 may be to keep the Chivas USA concept and city, but demote the club to the NASL or the USL Pro League.
Option 4 would be Chivas USA’s demise as a club. It could fold just as the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny did in 2001. The league could easily replace it with an expansion franchise within a year.
Saturday’s game should be a wake up call. If MLS brass thought that crowd was embarrassing, just wait. Their next home game is a Sunday afternoon match at 2pm local time against an FC Dallas squad not worth getting excited about.
They might set the all time attendance record for least fans at an MLS regular season game.
If they do, perhaps it will be the trigger that ends the dreadful experiment known as Chivas USA.