MLS

Chivas USA buyout caps banner offseason for Garber and MLS

Yesterday, PSP declared for the second time this offseason that the Philadelphia Union have killed it.

By my estimation, the same ought to be said for Major League Soccer’s brass. If medals were awarded for┬áthe 2013-14 offseason, last week’s news would have put the finishing touches on a gold-winning performance for Don Garber and the league.

Finally pulling the plug on Vergara

Garber took what stood to be one of the more memorable winters in MLS history and raised the stakes even further. Continued expansion has been the league’s primary growth metric, but for every two success stories, a problem child has evolved.

Along those lines, Chivas USA was Dennis the Menace, Junior, and Damien rolled into one. Last Thursday, the league announced they had bought out Jorge Vergara’s stake in the league — essentially wresting control of the club from the Mexican billionaire.

Vergara had an intriguing idea for the second Los Angeles franchise, a club whose target audience was the Latino community in the City of Angels (and presumably in points beyond). Unfortunately for him, the team never really caught on. There are so many ways to place the blame: complete mismanagement, ownership treating it as the redheaded stepchild of Chivas Guadalajara, consistent underperformance, second-rate tenants of the StubHub Center. I’m sure there are more.

Turning the page

But MLS took that painful first step. They gave Vergara every opportunity to make the team work, but in the end the league would always have a black eye. In leagues around the world, a team like Chivas USA would have long been relegated out of the top flight. With a closed system, Major League Soccer’s best option was to buy Vergara out, and attempt to resurrect interest in a second Los Angeles team.

Before the announcement of the league taking over the club, reports had emerged about trademark applications filed for Los Angeles S.C. and Los Angeles F.C. Whichever identity the team assumes, it’s probably less about the name and more about the aspirations of the next owner.

Will that owner look to find his or her own stadium, either through building or relocating to an existing venue? A downtown stadium is what the league wants and it would seem difficult for the next generation of this team to eclipse the primary occupants of the StubHub Center, the Galaxy.

Will the new owner look to high-priced celebrity players to attract fans? Or will the Kansas City approach of building from within through youth take hold? Either way has shown to be successful in the league.

The league answered every offseason question

That may be a difficult thing to say for a league that always has questions about its salary structure, playoff system, etc. But to review:

  • Fix Toronto — Brought in Leiweke in 2013, and the offseason transformed the team into an instant contender.
  • Fix Chivas USA — Bought out Vergara, presumably with a plan in place to rebrand in the near future, signed quality veterans with experience overseas.
  • Settle Beckham F.C. — Announced Miami as the next franchise, a lot of questions to sort out in terms of stadium and branding, but that Expansion Franchise Clause has now been exercised and will ensure Beckham’s presence in MLS for years to come.
  • Arrange the playing cards for the new TV deal and CBA — The 3 points above all contribute to the TV deal. Expansion also gives the owners a bargaining chip at the negotiating table for the CBA, since more and more roster spots will be provided to American players.

All in all, it’s been a great offseason for Don Garber’s crew. While it isn’t all perfect (the Camilo snafu, the potential referee strike, DC United’s and NYC FC’s ongoing stadium location hunt), the most pressing issues have been addressed, and all indications point to a bright future for most of the teams in MLS.

One Comment

  1. Nice recap, and I agree it’s been a banner offseason so far. But if Garber can’t get the PRO and the referee’s union to act like adults, and he blows the upcoming CBA negotiations, it turns into the worst offseason oretty quickly.

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