LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Timing and execution are paramount in sport and Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber believes that both factors are in place as Los Angeles welcomes the league’s latest expansion team.
The fledgling Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) will launch their inaugural season in 2018 after a new stadium has been built on the site of the Memorial Sports Arena, setting up the prospect of a future city rivalry with the LA Galaxy.
Founded in 1995, the Galaxy are five-time MLS Cup champions and they shared their StubHub Center in nearby Carson with Chivas USA, who finally ceased operations last year after mainly struggling for 10 seasons in the league.
While some have questioned the ability of Los Angeles to sustain two teams, given the demise of Chivas after they failed to reach the playoffs for five consecutive seasons and had the worst attendance in the league, Garber disagrees.
“Look at the interest here today is really my answer to that,” Garber told Reuters on Monday after LAFC announced to a packed news conference details of their proposed state-of-the-art soccer venue in Exposition Park on the site of the Memorial Sports Arena.
“The idea of two teams in LA wasn’t wrong. The execution the first time was wrong.”
Chivas USA became the 11th MLS team in 2004 and made their debut the following year before they shut down last October following a comprehensive review of the league’s strategy for the Los Angeles market.
”Any business leader who thinks they’re not going to make a mistake is a fool,“ said Garber. ”You have to have courage and bravery to succeed and you can’t fear failure or you will never take risks and it was a risk in ‘05.
”It was the right idea at the wrong time. We see now what’s happening in New York with the Red Bull-New York City FC rivalry.
“The Red Bulls are having their best year ever. Their first game was all over the local media and I am convinced, and the MLS owners more importantly are convinced, that having two teams here in LA is a good idea.”
Former All-Star Major League Baseball player Nomar Garciaparra, who with his wife U.S. soccer great Mia Hamm is part of LAFC’s ownership group, felt comparisons could not be made with Chivas.
”One, LAFC is a very different team,“ Garciaparra told Reuters. ”We are a new expansion team and first and foremost we will be getting a new stadium, not just one stadium where two teams are playing.
”We will have our own home, a separate home and that will be felt and appreciated by the fans. It’s a whole new team and it’s a whole new group, and with LA Galaxy already so well established, it will be great for competition.
“How can LA sustain two teams? Well, baseball has no problem with the Angels and Dodgers and hockey seems to be all right too with the Kings and Ducks, so why not soccer too? It’s not a problem.”
Editing by Gene Cherry