NEW YORK (AP) – The troubled tenure of Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes as owners of Chivas USA has ended with Major League Soccer purchasing the team.
MLS said Thursday it had assumed operation of the team, which had the second-worst record in the league last year at 6-20-8 and averaged a league-low attendance of 8,366 a game.
Vergara and Fuentes have controlled the Mexican club Chivas Guadalajara since 2002 and had a 50 percent interest in Chivas USA when it was created in 2004 and started play the next year. The pair took operating control of Chivas USA in August 2012 when they bought out former partners Antonio and Lorenzo Cue, who had previously run the team.
"The original plan which we came up with in 2004 and executed in '05 was to extend one of soccer's most venerable brands into the United States," MLS commissioner Don Garber said during a conference call. "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.
"Ultimately the concept didn't work out," he added. "I came up with the idea with folks here at the league. I don't believe it was the concept as much as there [were] some executional issues."
The concept of a league owning a team is not unprecedented. An entity owned by Major League Baseball bought the Montreal Expos in 2002, moved the club to Washington, D.C., rebranded it the Nationals, and sold it to the Lerner family in 2006. The NHL had operational control of the Phoenix Coyotes from 2009-13.
MLS said Wilmer Cabrera, hired as coach on Jan. 9, will remain in his job.
The league said it will sell the team to an ownership group committed to keeping the team in the Los Angeles area. Garber hopes to have a deal in place by the end of the year.
"Sometimes it takes time to get this done. We're not in a rush," he said.
Garber said the new ownership group must intend to build a stadium, and he mentioned the site of the L.A. Sports Arena as a possibility. Currently, Chivas USA shares the StubHub Center with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
David Beckham was not considered a possible buyer. The former Galaxy star exercised his option to purchase an expansion team in Miami.
"I wonder if he would have thought differently if his option execution date was a year from now versus a year ago," Garber said.
The team will use the Chivas USA name for now, then will get a new name and logo along with its new owners.
"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."
Two former Chivas USA youth coaches, Daniel Calichman and Theothoros Chronopoulos, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the team last May in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claiming they were fired because they aren't Mexican or Latino.
"It's been resolved. It's no longer a pending case." Garber said. "It was resolved very recently."