Welcome to the RSL Cup blog

I've been a fan of Real Salt Lake since it joined MLS and took to the field in 2005, and I've been a fan of MLS since it began in 1996. Lately however I've started to worry about the path MLS is taking and the poor decisions they are making that in my mind threaten the growth of soccer as a whole in the US. (see "Columbus conspiracy" section) Soccer in America will grow only when we have a vibrant and diverse minor league system, something that MLS seems to be smothering at the moment. (see "American soccer wars" section) Let's keep our eyes on the situation and hope for the best, a future where grass-roots soccer and the minor leagues can not only exist but flourish, as well as where the contributions and history of the league's early clubs are appreciated and preserved.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why did the Chivas USA experiment fail? An insider's perspective

(by Keegan Pierce si.com 2-24-14)

Last week, Major League Soccer announced that Chivas USA, the much-maligned Southern California franchise, will soon cease to exist under that name. The league has purchased the team from Mexican owner Jorge Vergara, with the intent of installing new management and identifying fresh investors to keep a rebranded version of the club in Los Angeles.

Thus ends a bold 10-year experiment in cross-border sports branding, an experiment that ultimately failed to achieve its ambitious goals. It was also an experiment to which I had a front-row seat as Chivas USA's director of communications during its first five seasons in MLS.

Having spent those thrilling and frustrating years promoting this innovative soccer brand in one of the U.S.'s biggest media markets, I can think of a few reasons why Chivas USA failed to live up to expectations.

The first, and most evident, was on the field. Yes, Chivas USA played exciting soccer at times, and prominent figures sported the club's colors: from former Mexican internationals Paco Palencia, Ramón Ramírez and Claudio Suárez; to future U.S. standouts Brad Guzan and Sacha Kljestan; to a list of managers that included Bob Bradley, Martin Vasquez and José Luis "Chelís" Sánchez Solá.

But our beloved Chivas USA began life in MLS with a 4-22-6 record, leaving a bad taste in the mouths of local fans, many of whom were already skeptical to pronouncements that Chivas would teach the rest of the league to play "real" soccer. Nowhere was this more clearly expressed than in the club's much-debated inaugural branding campaign: Adiós Soccer, El Fútbol Está Aquí ("Goodbye Soccer, Fútbol is Here").

Subsequent seasons saw improvement, and the team even made it to the MLS Cup playoffs for four years in a row, from 2006-2009. But as hard as we tried to play the "feisty underdog" role -- especially following David Beckham's arrival in 2007-- Chivas USA became all too accustomed to playing second fiddle to the Galaxy in terms of star power, attendance and results.

But on-field performance was the least of Chivas USA's problems. Sports brands are steeped in meaning and history, so even in the best of circumstances, the idea of "cloning" a team from one country to another was always a risky proposition. And perhaps no sports brand was less suited to this kind of experiment than Chivas de Guadalajara.

For more than a century, "Chivas Mexico" (as employees of both clubs called our Guadalajara brethren) has prided itself on fielding only Mexican players. It is even considered by some to be Mexico's second national team: or, in the words of Vergara himself, as Mexican as tequila and mariachis.

So it's understandable that many diehard Guadalajara fans -- originally envisioned to be Chivas USA's core audience -- were unsettled by the idea of a second team out there sporting Chivas' red and white stripes yet failing to share its identity. I remember accompanying Chivas USA players to appearances in Southern California communities like Lynwood, Bell Gardens, or Downtown Los Angeles. "Where are the Mexican players?" fans would ask. Or, when one of our Mexican players did come along: "When will you be signing more guys from Guadalajara?"

This was not the fans' fault, of course: they were simply identifying a gaping hole between the "reality" of Chivas USA, and the expectations created by the "100 percent Mexican" essence of the Chivas de Guadalajara brand.

I should mention that I, like others in MLS, was a true believer in the idea of Chivas USA. I'd followed the league since 1996, and had developed a deep love for Latin American fútbol while living and working in Mexico, Brazil and Chile. So when the expansion club was announced in 2004, I jumped at the chance to move to Los Angeles and promote what I figured would be a breath of fresh air for MLS: Chivas USA would bring talent and resources from south of the border, while injecting passion and rivalry into a league that just two years earlier had eliminated two of its franchises.

But it didn't take long to realize what a challenge we had on our hands. Our first-year squad was made up primarily of players from the parent club's "B" team, supplemented by MLS SuperDraft and Expansion Draft picks. Our intended fanbase proved fickle, with Chivas' original supporters group making it clear that they would not attend Chivas USA matches while Guadalajara was on television. I remember looking up in the stands as we played our curtain-raiser match against Javier Aguirre's Osasuna in 2005, one week before our MLS opener, and seeing swathes of empty seats at the Home Depot Center.

Although times have changed, there are still important lessons to be learned from Chivas USA's mistakes.

MLS has grown considerably since 2004, and the United States continues to be one of the high-growth-investment destinations of the global game, where the likes of Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona and many others see an opportunity to create new fans and -- in the case of New York City FC, co-owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees, and David Beckham, who is spearheading the Miami expansion franchise project -- to open new teams.

But in so doing, foreign investors must always remember the importance of allowing a new team to grow its own roots and create its own history and identity. This is not just a question of establishing community ties (which Chivas USA certainly tried to do); it also means making sure that a new club doesn't feel it is constantly living under the shadow of a parent or older sibling.

I've asked myself a million times: Could Chivas USA have worked? Done differently, perhaps:

• For starters, ownership needed to make it clear from day one that this was going to be a "multicultural" team, not just because MLS player rules demanded it, but because that was its vision for the club. That was not the case at Chivas USA.

• Secondly, the organization should have thought twice about the name Chivas "USA." Even our most ardent fans agreed -- and we heard this often -- that "LA" needed to be included somewhere in the official name (objections from the Galaxy notwithstanding) to underscore the club's connection to its home market.

• Finally, threading the needle on this novel bicultural venture required a much clearer understanding of the complexities of Latino identity in the United States, and the fact that a brand or a team -- or an individual -- can be both Mexican and American, and does not have to choose between the two.

In less than two weeks, Chivas USA as we know it will kick off its final season opener under the bright lights of the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. And in the coming year, MLS will begin the work of identifying new investors, who will in turn lead the process of rebranding the franchise.

MLS has had plenty of success launching and rebranding teams during the past eight years, and there's reason to believe that a team with a new ownership group, a new identity and -- most importantly -- a home of its own, will have every chance to thrive in the Southern California sports market. After all, Los Angeles has always been a "soccer" town, no matter what its culturally diverse residents choose to call the game. And all available indicators point to an increasing relevance of the world's sport to Americans, a fact that no doubt will be underscored by this summer's viewership of the World Cup in Brazil.

But for Chivas USA, it will soon be time to say adiós. For me, and for the dozens of others who have toiled to bring this concept to life, it's certainly been an adventure. Though the club's name will cease to exist, its memory will live on -- if only as a cautionary tale for those looking to succeed where this particular experiment failed.

In one aspect, though, I have to say Chivas USA was right: El fútbol está aquí. And, as far as I can tell, it is here to stay.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The enigma of RSL FM

Anyone that has been a fan of RSL since the early days and who has also been involved in RSL's blogger or message board scene is familiar with RSL FM.
 
For anyone who is not I will just quickly say that RSL FM was a vibrant and knowledgeable fan/blogger who made excellent observations and at times ruffled a lot of feathers. Never happy with the status quo RSL FM criticized the team's front office staff many times, and criticized the teams play and the coaching style of Jason Kreis in his early days at the helm.
 
Later after the team enjoyed much success RSL FM hopped on board the Kreis bandwagon and much of the criticism subsided.
 
However, in the Spring of 2010 we were all saddened upon hearing of the passing of RSL FM. We never found out what happened to her but her blog showed a photograph of her when she was a child and a note below in Portuguese that said "back with mom and dad again."
 
(FM stood for Fortaleza Menina, or girl from Fortaleza which is the city in Brazil she was from.)
 
 

However, there were a few members of the Rogue Cavalier Brigade that never got a long with RSL FM and even questioned her existence. There are pages and pages of posts in the BigSoccer archives that detail the bickering that went back and forth season after season.

And to fuel the fire even more is the date in which RSL FM last signed into her BigSoccer account. January 4th, 2012 which is almost two years after she had passed.

Sure, I guess it could be a friend or family member logging into her account but why?, what purpose would they have to do this almost 2 years later?



Also, recent comments by Boz, RSL FM's closest BigSoccer friend makes it sound like there is more to the story.


 
I honestly don't care that much anymore, so much time has passed now. Sure, I had my differences with her on more than one occasion but it does leave a bad taste in your mouth to think that maybe all this time someone was trying and succeeding at making us play the fool.
 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

San Jose stadium construction


We won't be seeing this much longer


That LA uniform is ugly.

The photo is an interesting one though with Landy sailing through the air, a pink and white ball, the Chivas dude just watching, and blue and yellow confetti on the pitch.

With Chivas gone after this year however the LA derby should be more interesting in the future.

MLS eyes LA solution after spending around $70 million to purchase Chivas USA

(by Brian Staus soccer.si.com 2-21-14)

MLS commissioner Don Garber said Thursday that the league paid “market price” to rescue Chivas USA from Jorge Vergara’s hands, and it appears that MLS did, in fact, pay at the lower end of that range.

SI.com confirmed independently that the league spent around $70 million to take ownership of L.A.’s floundering second club. That same figure was reported Thursday evening by the Los Angeles Times and is similar to the price paid by Orlando City to join MLS in 2015. Manchester City and the New York Yankees were charged $100 million to launch New York City FC.

Considering the fact that L.A. is the country’s second most populous metropolitan area and Orlando ranks a distant 26th, MLS may have gotten a bit of a bargain. The league’s goal isn’t necessarily to make money off the transaction, however. It remains committed to finding a buyer for Chivas USA who will rebrand the club and move it to a new stadium built somewhere in the metro area. A strong second team in L.A. will be worth more to the league in the long run.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said Thursday that MLS has “had lots of conversations with local owners. There’s an enormous interest in participating,” and at least one new inquiry has come in since Thursday’s announcement.

Obviously, no new stadium will be ready by the 2015 season. If Chivas USA has a new owner by then, the renamed club would have to find a place to play while it pursues a new facility. Los Angeles anchors a massive area that contains several venues that might be renovated or retrofit for MLS play, but StubHub Center remains the most likely option. Owner AEG is a long-time league investor that should be willing to help find a solution.

Other leagues have faced similar situations, which haven’t always been resolved quickly. The NHL took over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2009 after its owner went bankrupt and didn’t sell it to an owner committed to Arizona until last summer. The NBA sold the New Orleans Pelicans, then called the Hornets, to Tom Benson in spring 2012 after owning the franchise for 16 months. Major League Baseball held on to the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals for four years.

MLS has no intention or desire to let it linger that long, but Garber said Thursday, “We’re not in a rush. We believe in the opportunity [in L.A.]. We’re going to try to find a great local owner and we’re going to marry that owner with a strong stadium plan.”

Vergara, meanwhile, will be able to focus solely on helping his flagship club, Chivas de Guadalajara, return to prominence. Now on its seventh coach since the start of 2012, Chivas has qualified for the Liga MX playoffs only once in the past four seasons.

Vergara, the billionaire founder of nutritional supplement empire Grupo Omnilife, may have benefited from the Chivas USA deal. He and his former partners, Antonio and Lorenzo Cué, paid only $7.5 million to join MLS in 2005. Two years ago, Vergara and his wife, Angelica Fuentes, spent around $35 million to take over sole control of the club. Garber confirmed Thursday that Chivas USA “does lose money, and in some years it’s been a significant amount,” but Vergara was a partner for much of that time and wasn’t very ambitious with his MLS roster.

The sale seems like a win-win for both sides. Victory is something Vergara, at least, hasn’t been used to.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Hurdles ahead for Beckham and MLS in Miami

(by Nick Madigan nytimes.com 2-5-14)

The soccer star David Beckham delivered a long-awaited but in many ways provisional commitment to Miami on Wednesday when he confirmed it as the future home of a Major League Soccer expansion team that he will own — alongside partners not yet named — and run.

Beckham made the announcement during a somewhat giddy news conference overlooking a sunny Biscayne Bay, an event punctuated by vigorous chants from fans who have been without a top-flight team since 2001, when M.L.S. folded the Miami Fusion.
 
“This is an exciting time for myself, for my family and friends,” Beckham told the crowd while perched on a stool between the M.L.S. commissioner, Don Garber, and the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos A. Gimenez, who is on record as opposing the use of public money for privately owned sports facilities.
 
As if to assure Gimenez of his access to deep pockets elsewhere, Beckham made a point of saying that “a lot of great people want to invest in this team and this club,” a remark greeted with cheers.
 
“We don’t want public funding,” he said. “We will fund the stadium ourselves.”
 
But the news conference raised more questions than it answered. There is no deal in place for the financing to build a stadium, or to buy or lease the land on which to put it. The team has no name, and there seems to be only a vague notion of when the team might start playing in M.L.S. — perhaps in 2016, more likely 2017. Nor was it clear where the team might play, temporarily, until its own stadium is completed.
 
The Miami team would be the 22nd in M.L.S. The league currently has 19 clubs, but it will add two more — in New York City and Orlando — next year.
 
Beckham had inserted the right to buy a team for $25 million into his original playing contract when he joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, but he had to exercise that option before Dec. 31, 2013.

Wednesday’s announcement was merely confirmation that he had done so by the deadline.
In an interview after the news briefing, Garber said that in the last month or so he had personally looked at three properties in downtown Miami that might be suitable stadium sites for Beckham’s team.
“We want that stadium to be downtown,” Garber said, mentioning in particular a site in Miami’s seaport near the arena where the N.B.A.’s Miami Heat play.

Asked why he had chosen Miami for his new venture, Beckham replied, “I mean, why not?”
 
More concretely, he said Miami had become a truly international city that was especially appealing to visitors and immigrants from Latin America and Europe. Those audiences, he said, flock to soccer games, as evidenced by huge turnouts to matches in recent years featuring teams like Real Madrid, A.C. Milan, Chelsea and national teams from Brazil and Honduras. Those games were played in the Sun Life football stadium in Miami Gardens, a suburb northwest of downtown.
 
“In this market, if you put a soccer team together, you have a lot of sophisticated soccer fans who will go,” said Norb Ecksl, who was general manager of the Miami Freedom soccer team in the early 1990s and is now the editor of Sunshine Soccer News.

“If you put a good product on the field and promote it properly, it’s going to work. And you have to have a state-of-the-art stadium that people will be willing to come to. It’s all about entertainment.”
 
Beckham, he said, “has got to have the money, and cooperation from the government” to make the venture succeed. “We’ll see,” Ecksl added, the failure of previous teams in South Florida fresh in his mind.
During the news briefing, Beckham and Garber insisted that things had changed since the Fusion folded, and that it was time for Miami to take its place in the booming business of soccer.

“Miami is a vibrant city, a city with a lot of passion,” Beckham said. “It’s ready for football, for soccer. And I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time here."
 
Asked whether he had any players in mind as potential hires, Beckham demurred, although he acknowledged that some prominent players had already contacted him.
 
Beckham, 38, is a former captain of England’s national team. He began playing for Manchester United when he was 17 and went on to become one of soccer’s most prominent players.
 
He said he was “living the dream” by starting his own team.
 
“For me, I wanted to create a team that we can start from scratch,” he said. “I wanted to create a team that’s very personal.”

Beckham mentioned two potential partners in the venture: the Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure, founder of the Miami-based wireless distributor Brightstar Corporation, and the “American Idol” producer Simon Fuller, both of whom, he said, were “very excited” about the project.
 
For the soccer fans who attended Wednesday’s announcement, the possibility of a return to regular local play by a first division professional team was more than welcome. Jonathan Urbaez, a 20-year-old student at Miami-Dade College and one of about 150 members of the Southern Legion, a soccer supporters’ group formed expressly to push for a new M.L.S. team in Miami, said that when he heard that Beckham might start a team here, it “sounded too good to be true.”
 
“Once I heard that the wheels were rolling,” Urbaez said, “I knew it was something I had to be a part of.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

RSL uniforms, 2014 (the dark days begin)

"These are our new uniforms?!"

Rumor is Kreis had a hand in designing these uniforms. If true I take back every nice thing I've ever said about him.

Tonight, we dine in hell !