Let’s not sugar coat this thing: the crowd scenes from the Home Depot Center last night are an embarrassment to Major League Soccer.
And everyone knows it.
Chivas USA’s announced attendance was 7,212 … and it looks highly dubious as an actual attendance count. (Teams across all sports routinely announce “tickets distributed” as the attendance, so Chivas USA is doing nothing unusual there.)
But the eyes don’t lie. And the staggering number of empty seats at the Home Depot Center last night had MLS fans and pundits abuzz. Truly, if Chivas USA cannot sell more seats for opening night, on a Saturday, what in the world will some random Wednesday match against Toronto or New England look like?
(In fairness, the picture you see was taken prior to kickoff Saturday; but the picture didn’t look much better 30 minutes into Saturday’s loss.)
This is all on Jorge Vergara, the club owner and the owner of Chivas USA’s mother ship, Chivas de Guadalajara.
The marketing plan is fabulously flawed. It’s always been fabulously flawed, because the hard-wired attachments to the Chivas brand alienates so many potential Latino fans in Southern California.
We could write 4,000 words about the Vergara and how his business model for Chivas USA just hasn’t worked out, but that’s not the point anymore.
This has reached a level where Major League Soccer has to seriously consider doing something – and not just adding consultants and hoping to patch up the holes. We are so very far past that.
Franchise relocation, painful as it is, has to become more and more of a real option if Vergara cannot find it in himself (and in his organization) to correct the course. And fast.