MLS is growing. There's simply no denying it. The quality of play on the pitches across America is trending up, but when a sports league grows, the product on the field usually follows the success of the product off the field.
Whether Jose Mourinho is a fan or not, MLS has surpassed the NHL in average attendance, flourishing in not only Cascadia, but also swaths of the West Coast, Midwest, Northeast, and Canada. MLS now has two major media deals, with NBC Sports and ESPN, and we're seeing more and more players - at younger ages - come from South America and Europe to America.
Just think back to ten years ago. In 2003, there were ten teams in MLS. The season was 15 games long. Attendance sagged under 15,000. There was only one soccer specific stadium in the league. The Dallas Burn, New York MetroStars, and Kansas City Wizards all suffered poor seasons.
Today, MLS has 19 teams, and that number will grow to 20 in 2015. Of the current 19, 16 have soccer specific stadiums - and Seattle needs the football stadium capacity. Attendance continues to rise, the season has 34 games, and the MetroStars, Burn and Wizards of 2003 have been not so much rebranded, but reborn, as FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls, and Sporting KC.
The gimmicky nicknames, ridiculous uniforms, and lack of a presence on the sporting stage are no more, not to mention that the ugly hoof-ball of years past is gone as well. MLS has learned how to become a respectable soccer league, and so, it's growing and getting better and better.
But through all this growth, there is a massive blemish on the league: Chivas USA. After that 2003 season, Chivas was introduced as MLS' 11th team, a sort of little brother to Mexican parent club Chivas Guadalajara.
While the idea of an American club under the wing of a Mexican team always rankled some in MLS, the American league was okay with Chivas USA being a puppet team if they could bring in revenue and a strong latino fan base for support.
In Chivas' first ten years, things went alright. On the field, the Goats were a mixed bag, off the field, Chivas struggled, playing second fiddle to the LA Galaxy in Los Angeles, and the Home Depot Center, where attendance was poor. With a little foresight, MLS could have predicted that Chivas Guadalajara fans wouldn't care about MLS and Chivas USA, while LA soccer fans would support the Galaxy, leaving Chivas with no place in the market.
But in 2012, Jorge Vergara bought the Chivas properties, and apparently went on a witch-hunt against non-Spanish speakers. On May 29 of this year, a discrimination lawsuit was filed by Daniel Calichman and Theothoros Chronopoulos. Calichman and Chronopolous had both been fired shortly after Vergara took over, they allege, because they are not Latino.
Chronopoulos has stated that after Vergara took over, the owner told his staff that those who didn't speak Spanish would be fired, and Chronopoulos was allegedly asked for a list of youth players and coaches who were Mexican or of Mexican descent, and those who were not.
Last offseason, Chivas' American was jettisoned, as were almost all the American and European players on the team, while Mexican and Latino players and coaches were brought in to fill those positions.
The moves made no soccer or business sense, and Chivas has been atrocious this season, and whil
e their announced attendance is around a league-worst 8,000, the amount of people who show up to the Home Depot Center for games is usually under 5,000.
To put it simply, Chivas is a joke. If what Vergara is allegedly doing wasn't illegal, it would still be a black mark on the league that major sports leagues would never stand for.
MLS doesn't need Chivas Guadalajara's support anymore. They can manage on their own just fine. The era in which Chivas USA, sporting the same kits, colors and crest as it's parent Mexican club, was submitted to the league is gone.
Chivas' owner is a disgrace, they have no real fan support or place in LA, and if MLS wants to continue getting stronger, they need to shed the dead wood. If Chivas was relocated, not many tears would be shed in Guadalajara, LA, or anywhere in between.
There's another reason why MLS should get rid of Chivas. With New York City FC entering the league in 2015, MLS will have 20 teams. With a promotion/relegation system out of the question, mostly because MLS teams don't control their own finances, any further MLS expansion with risk inflating the league and decreasing the quality of the teams in the league.
Most soccer leagues around the world have 20 teams or under, because more teams than 20 make it difficult to schedule, and saturates the league, spreading more mediocrity than parity.
If you cap the league at 20 teams, MLS could be missing out on some fantastic opportunities Because of the draw of the NYC market, MLS decided, quite rightly, to put a second team in the New York area, but they did bypass other possible soccer markets to do so. Support for soccer in the South is up, especially in cities like Atlanta, Orlando and San Antonio, and the prospect of a David Beckham owned team in South Florida has mouth-watering possibilities.
MLS has no presence in the South, and the potential to have no potential to expand. Getting rid of, or moving Chivas USA gives MLS huge flexibility to handpick a market and ownership group that can flourish and be a bright-spot for American soccer.
MLS has done well with expansion teams, in fact, if you look closely, most of the worst supported teams in the league, besides Chivas, came into the league in its first three years.
It's time to get rid of Chivas USA. If MLS is the league we think it can be, we'll see action.