If you followed the professional games of Major League Soccer within the past 20 years, you might be familiar with a team called Chivas USA FC. They were a professional soccer team out of Carson, California, that played between 2005 and 2014.
Although it was a short-lived MLS team, Chivas USA FC was influential to the MLS because of its failures. It taught the MLS how to make better expansion decisions in the future. Once Chivas USA FC was dissolved in 2014, it spawned Los Angeles FC soon afterwards. The Los Angeles FC had much better success than Chivas USA FC. But why? What happened?
Chivas USA FC was the 11th MLS team to enter the league and the 3rd MLS team to dissolve from the league. It was the subsidiary or “younger brother” of the Mexican professional football club called C.D. Guadalajara. This club was in terrible shape until a Mexican businessman named Jorge Vergara had purchased C.D. Guadalajara and renovated it in 2002.
One year later, MLS announced that C.D. Guadalajara would get to play in the 2003 MLS All-Star Game. Vergara wanted to have an expansion team in the United States based on the C.D. Guadalajara club. This gave birth to the California-based MLS soccer team Chivas USA FC.
The original plans were for Chivas USA FC to be based in San Diego or Los Angeles. As it turned out, Chivas USA FC shared a stadium in Carson at the Home Depot Center (aka The Dignity Health Sports Park). Carson, of course, is a neigborhood in Los Angeles. The team’s first official MLS game was in 2005.
The Rise and Fall of Chivas USA FC
Many experts considered Chivas USA FC to be an expansion experiment. Vergara had the idea of turning his Mexican soccer club into an international brand. That was his motivation for purchasing the Chivas USA FC expansion in the first place. He figured that European football clubs do the same thing when expanding to different countries across the continent. So, why not do the same in the Americas?
It made sense at the time. California was close to the U.S. Southern Border it shares with Mexico. Both locations have almost the same demographics. On top of that, the parent club, C.D. Guadalajara, was a featured team in the 2013 MLS All-Stars. Because of this, Vergara wasn’t afraid to pay $7.5 million to the MLS for the expansion to occur.
The first two seasons were terrible for Chivas USA FC. The team went through three different head coaches before settling on Predrag “Preki” Radosavlijevic. Preki helped make the team more successful in the third season. The team’s goalkeeper, Brad Guzan, was named the 2007 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Not only that, but Preki was the 2007 MLS Coach of the Year.
Things went great for the team until Preki left in 2010. C.D. Guadalajara was equally as bad. None of the coaches that got hired could turn the teams around. Between 2010 and 2013, Chivas USA FC suffered many challenges both on and off the field. Losing games was just one of the challenges. The other challenge was the discriminatory lawsuits filed against Chivas USA FC and Vergara by the team’s former coaches.
In 2011 Robin Fraser was appointed as the head coach of Chivas. This was a difficult period for coaches with 4 coaches being fired by Vergara for not meeting his expectations.
The lawsuits alleged that the coaches were fired because they were not Hispanic. It was a public relations nightmare in which the team could not recover. And with the team’s lousy performances on the soccer field, Chivas USA FC became the joke of the league. Vergara could not handle all of these challenges anymore.
On the 9th of January 2014, Columbian Wilmer Cabera was appointed as the last ever coach of Chivas FC. He left his position in October the same year. He has gone on to coach again in the MLS with 3 years at Houston Dynamo and a short spell as interim head coach at Montreal Impact.
In 2014, Vergara decided to sell the entire Chivas franchise to MLS for $70 million. MLS later turned around and sold it to a group of investors who rebranded it as Los Angeles FC. The team already had a stadium in downtown Los Angeles. So far, Los Angeles FC has had two successful seasons in counting.