Timing is everything in business and it would have been everything in LA. Los Angeles’ second MLS team went through a drastic change this week, while their first team, the LA Galaxy, prepared for their 16th playoff run as crosstown rivals Chivas USA prepared to enter the history books. On Monday, October 27th the league announced that Chivas USA would be closing operations effective immediately, bringing an end to one of the more interesting, controversial and badly run clubs in MLS history. It is no doubt that Chivas USA will become a case study in how NOT to operate a professional sports franchise in the future, details that have been extensively covered over the years.
Three days later on Thursday, October 30th MLS officially announced plans for the new LA franchise that will begin play in 2017 by introducing a new ownership group for the LAFC franchise. The most interesting news about the new franchise is that they will begin play in a new soccer stadium built specifically for the team. This news contrasts to the news coming out of Miami where the league’s golden child, David Beckham, continues his fight to find a site and support for his MLS franchise.
Major League Soccer awarded David Beckham with a new club in Miami earlier this year. The legwork and the heavy lifting would be left to Beckham and his group of investors to get the franchise up and going. The first step has been finding a site for a new soccer specific stadium for the new franchise, yet to be named. Unfortunately, Beckham is finding life in a suit while dealing with city officials and developers tougher to break through than a five-man wall blocking his view of the goal. This past week Don Garber admitted to Reuters at the SoccerEx Americas Forum in Barbados that, “If we can’t get the right stadium, we can’t go to Miami. We have been challenged to find a site that we believe will be successful.”
It is astounding how bad the timing of awarding Miami with a franchise while MLS was running one of their own franchises. It would have been a perfect match to award Beckham and his investors LAFC, where prospects for a new stadium and an established fan base were already high instead of the unenviable venture of building a new team, support and fans from the ground up in Miami. Miami already had a team in the MLS, and it failed, from a front office, ownership and revenue standpoint, however, on the field the Miami Fusion franchise had a loyal fan base, a soccer specific stadium in Fort Lauderdale and a supporters shield.
The Miami franchise is essentially a business start up, while the new LAFC one is purchasing a ready-made business in need of a location. They both have similar hurdles, i.e. need a stadium, official team names, marketing plan, staff and players, however, LA has proven something that Miami has always struggled to do, support multiple teams, across all sports. Outside of the Miami Fusion, teams such as the NFL’s Dolphins, MLB’s Marlins, NHL’s Panthers and even the NBA’s Heat all have attendance problems year in and year out. LA’s strong fan base in MLB’s Dodgers and Angels, NBA’s Lakers and recently Clippers, NHL’s Kings and fellow MLS team Galaxy all prove that there is a market and one that can support multiple teams from the same sport and leagues.
David Beckham already has a built in fan base in LA after putting MLS on the map in world soccer and launching the Galaxy’s current run as one of the league’s premier team’s with 2 MLS Cups and 2 Supporters Shields in the last 5 years. If Beckham couldn’t take over the Galaxy, the next best thing would have been to build his own team in LA to compete against his old team. The league would have felt good in the fact that a new LA team built on the reputation of the league’s most marketable former player in the city where he played would be in good hands. In this scenario, it would have allowed MLS to bring in another team in the mold of Orlando City, Atlanta and Portland, a team from a lower division with an established fan base into the league, such as Sacramento or Minneapolis.
Instead, the poor timing in awarding Miami a franchise and the league dragging their feet on a Chivas USA decision may come back and hurt the league and David Beckham in the end if they cannot get a Miami franchise up and running by 2017, as LAFC takes the field.
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