MLS buys struggling Chivas USA franchise

February 20, 2014

Major League Soccer made a major move toward upgrading one of its worst franchises, announcing today that it has purchased Chivas USA from Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes, and that it will assume operations for the club effective immediately.

MLS will appoint an experienced sports executive to serve as the president of Chivas USA. Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera will continue in his position and report to the new president.

Vergara was part of the original ownership group that purchased an expansion team that began play in 2005, and he and Fuentes became sole owners of the club in 2012.

“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.”

Despite playing in the country's second largest market with a natural, ready-made rival in the Galaxy, Chivas USA has recently become an embarrassment for the league.  The club was embroiled in disputes with its employees over workplace violations, and was the epitome of instability, running through a succession of coaches in the past few seasons.

The team's poor performance on the field, largely caused by ownership's lack of commitment, did not help matters either.

“When Angelica and I gained full operational control of the team for the first time 15 months ago, we were hopeful we would be able to turn it around,” said Mr. Vergara. “However, there is only one Chivas de Guadalajara, and we have realized that it will require more time, further resources, and a level of commitment that would divert too much of our focus from our other business interests. We explored opportunities to sell to other groups, but we believe selling the franchise to MLS on an expedited basis is in the best interests of all parties, including the team’s players and its dedicated fans. MLS has assured us they are committed to keeping the club in Los Angeles and finding the right owners to make the team successful in the future."

In the coming months, the league will look to resell the club to a new ownership group that will be committed to building a new stadium and keeping the team in Los Angeles.

According to the MLS' press release, the league has had initial discussions with a number of very qualified potential owners and intends to finalize an agreement with a new group sometime this year.

The club will play as Chivas USA during the 2014 MLS season and will be rebranded with a new team name and logo in connection with the sale to a new owner.

Under the terms of the purchase agreement, Mr. Vergara and Ms. Fuentes retain all branding and licensing rights to the Chivas name with MLS permitted to continue using the Chivas USA brand name on a transitional basis.

In connection with the sale of the club to a new owner, MLS also will lead the discussions for a new stadium that would serve as the new home for the team. The club has played its home games at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. since debuting in 2005 and will continue to play there in 2014.

Chivas USA opens the 2014 MLS season on March 9 when they host the Chicago Fire.

By Staff of The Daily Sports Herald and news services

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