Undefeated at home, heading to the playoffs, and all in the year MLS has achieved unparalleled prominence — and Chivas USA’s crowds are down considerably, as the Los Angeles Times reports.
Chivas averages 12,191 fans per home game this season, down 39% from a year ago, filling less than half the seats at the Home Depot Center. Last year’s numbers were a bit inflated because Chivas was part of a doubleheader at the Coliseum that attracted more than 92,000 fans. Excluding that one game, Chivas’ home ticket sales are still down 19%.
“For a player, it’s very motivating to see a sellout crowd and have people act passionate about the game, but when we come out to warm up and we see the empty stadium it’s as if people don’t want to see us play,” said Chivas captain Claudio Suarez.
The experiment of attaching the name of a famous Mexican team to a random ensemble of players and hoping legions of fans would automatically show up just hasn’t work. I even think the other part of the name was wrong: wouldn’t Chivas LA would have attracted more local support?
The LA Times article fails to mention any impact Beckham may have had on Chivas attendence in LA. Surely the Galaxy stole much of their spotlight and many tickets from them this season. There’s also the larger question of whether any U.S. city is really ready for two MLS teams at this stage in the league’s developments. Sure, derbies stoke interest, but there just aren’t that many soccer fans out there willing to attend MLS games regularly at this point.
So should we chalk Chivas USA down as a failed experiment, or do they just need more time? At the least, they do provide a bump in attendence for teams in other cities when they visit, as I saw in Chicago earlier this season. Maybe it would be better to move the team elsewhere in California, perhaps somewhere even closer to Mexico — Chivas San Diego, anyone?