In Spanish, “chivas” means goats. Quite literally, Chivas USA was the goat of MLS during its brief existence. Consistently last in attendance, the fledgling franchise was always the ugly stepbrother of the league’s crown jewel, centerpiece, and innovative pioneer, the LA Galaxy. Now a new era begins for a replacement franchise that has already recaptured many members of the small but proud Chivas USA fanbase. This past week, the new team, Los Angeles Football Club, unveiled its first ever logo and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The team even revealed a surprising co-owner with celebrity status when Will Ferrell crashed the stage. On paper, things are looking very bright for the new LA team. But when the team plays its first competitive game in 2017, will the atmosphere still be so rosy?
At the end of the 2014 Major League Soccer season, the flickering flame of CD Chivas USA was extinguished. The sister club of Mexican giants CD Chivas Guadalajara, and the clear second team in Los Angeles to the Galaxy was a failed experiment that was finally coming to an end. In its first two seasons of operation, Chivas managed to draw a respectably high crowd of 20,000 fans that came to see a respectable team. However, in its penultimate season of operation, Chivas only managed a dismal average attendance of 8,000 fans per game.
What went so horribly wrong for Chivas USA? The combination of the Vergara family buying out the franchise in 2012 and major staff shakeups are possible conclusions. On top of that, a talented team would have difficulty in the shadows of MLS juggernaut LA Galaxy that over the years have boasted Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard, and David Beckham even without sharing the same stadium. But none of that matters now. In the wake of Chivas USA’s death, MLS has created a new franchise to spark a renaissance of Los Angeles soccer. And it’s official, the club now has a name: LAFC. I can already see the jokes that one could conjure from this moniker (i.e. FC Laughs) but the initial buzz around the team has been promising.
The club doesn’t officially begin play until 2017, but a few key pillars to their success have already been created. For starters, the club already has a planned downtown stadium proposal (with released renderings) that could create a geographical divide in the city with Galaxy fans. In addition, the team has made no secret of its goal to target millennials, as soccer is finding its fanbase in America. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, millennials are 16% more interested in soccer than any other U.S. demographic. The team has also already reached out to former supporters groups of Chivas USA, and rumors are already swirling about Cristiano Ronaldo transferring to the team in its inaugural season.
The Los Angeles market already has two baseball teams, two basketball teams, two hockey teams, one soccer team, and will possibly see one or two football teams relocate to the area in the near future. Even so, this is likely the last expansion sports franchise that the city will see for a very long time, an advantage for MLS considering the potential buzz around the first season that one can see now with NYCFC or Orlando City. All things considered, LAFC is off to a great start.