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MLS buys Chivas USA, to rebrand club under new ownership in 2015

Published February 21, 2014 9:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Wave goodbye to Chivas USA.

Or, wait until after the 2014 Major League Soccer season. But the Los Angeles-based franchise isn't dissolving or being relocated as of yet, it has been purchased by the league itself. MLS announced it bought Chivas USA from former owners Jorge Vergara and wife Angelica Fuentes Thursday afternoon.

Upon purchase, the league assumed immediate responsibility for operating the club and MLS will appoint an executive to oversee the club as the Chivas USA president in the interim, per a release from the league.

The story behind the club's inadequacies is: Chivas USA struggled to maintain anything resembling consistency since its inception in 2005, joining MLS the same year as Real Salt Lake. In a report from the Associated Press Thursday, it stated that Chivas USA averaged a league-low attendance at 8,366 fans per home match.

MLS now moves to find a new owner or ownership group in the coming months to be committed to turning the franchise around as well as building a new stadium — Chivas shares the StubHub Center along with the L.A. Galaxy — in the greater Los Angeles area. The press release issued by the league stated that MLS 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."

Once a new ownership is set in place, the club will be rebranded with a new name and logo in regards to the sale to that specific owner.

Vergara was initially part of the original ownership group that purchased the MLS expansion club to begin play in 2005, and in 2012 he and Fuentes became the full owners of the team purchasing the team from original owner Antonio Cue. The pair has controlled Mexican league staple Chivas Guadalajara, Chivas USA's former parent club of sorts, since 2002.

"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," Vergara said in a statement. "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."

MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a conference call Thursday that the plan surrounding Chivas USA was to "extend one of soccer's most venerable brands into the United States."

"The concept was to take a team that in essence represented the hopes and dreams of Mexican soccer fans both in Mexico and the United States and try to extend that here to the United States," Garber said.

For now, Chivas USA remains. But not for long. Come 2015, Orlando and New York City FC won't be the only new clubs joining the league.

-Chris Kamrani

Twitter: @chriskamrani