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Chivas USA's demise and the new LA franchise explained

Here's most of what you need to know to make sense of some rather confusing news.

Their final goodbyes.
Their final goodbyes.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

A new era of Major League Soccer in Southern California started Monday. What, exactly, that means is not entirely clear. A group of investors led by Henry Nguyen and including Vincent Tan, Peter Guber and Tom Penn has reportedly purchased the right to operate a second MLS team in Los Angeles, and apparently paid more than $100 million for that opportunity. But what else do we know? Let us explain.

I'm new here. Can you get me up to speed?

Here's the short version: Ten years ago MLS was in a very different place. The league was looking for investors. Jorge Vergara -- who also owned Mexican giants Chivas de Guadalajara -- stepped in with a rather audacious plan: Create a sister club in Los Angeles. He ended up bringing on the Cue brothers, a pair of Mexican businessman, as 50 percent partners. The idea was to not only expand the Chivas brand to the United States, but also be a beacon of sorts to Hispanic fans that were largely ignoring MLS at the time.

And it didn't go well, I presume?

At first, actually, it went OK. Chivas USA drew about 17,000 a game in Year 1 despite a really awful team and drew nearly 20,000 a game in Year 2 with Bob Bradley making them respectable on the field. They also went on a four-year run in which they made the playoffs every year and even challenged for the Supporters' Shield in 2007. As recently as 2012, they were reporting crowds of about 13,000 a game. Inflated as that number may have been, it didn't look disastrous at least.

So what happened?

The Vergaras bought out the Cues during the 2012 season and there were hopes that it would kick-start a renaissance. The reality was the complete opposite. The staff was gutted, the team became embroiled in various controversies, there were strange personnel moves and whatever fans there were simply stopped coming. In 2013, Chivas averaged a laughably inflated 8,000 a game and rumors started to swirl that the Vergaras wanted to sell -- or that the league may even force them out.

But it took until last February for the league to finally buy Chivas, promising to find a new investor that would keep them in LA, with a new name, new stadium and fresh outlook. If you're really interested in the whole saga, read this.

So mission accomplished?

Kinda. The Chivas brand is now so toxic -- there were many games this year where you could count the fans by hand -- that the new owners wanted to get as far away as possible. They're still committed to the greater Los Angeles area, but they want nothing to do with Chivas USA, rebranded or not.

What happens to all the records?

The new owners apparently want to start over from scratch. The league release was clear in stating that Chivas USA will cease to exist and a new team will start play in 2017. That means we can officially close the books on Chivas USA and move on. As for whether or not that's a good thing ...

Is it a good thing?

Ha, guess I left myself open there ... it was probably the least awful solution to what was becoming a public relations headache, one that was probably holding the league back in not insignificant ways. The Chivas USA experiment never worked how it was planned. It was never a beacon to Hispanic fans and players and even when people were showing up to games, the core fanbase never seemed to grow beyond the dedicated few. The Vergaras, owners from the beginning, deserve some blame for never being fully committed. The league deserves some blame for never forcing the Vergaras to commit and for waiting so long to find a solution. Regardless of who's to blame, the situation sure looked like it was broken beyond repair. The Chivas USA brand is worse than worthless at this point and it makes a lot of business sense for the new owners and the league to get as far away from that dumpster fire as humanly possible. This move is the equivalent of simply agreeing to allow that fire to burn itself out while the world moves on in another part of town.

Speaking of which, where is this new team going to play?

Glad you finally asked, as that's the biggest question surrounding this team. There have been two sites mentioned as potential locations for a new stadium. The first is the LA Sports Arena, the former home of the Los Angeles Clippers, across the street from USC and pretty much in downtown. There also happens to be great public transportation there. It checks off a lot of boxes for a potential new home, even if it's not completely perfect.

The other site is the old Hollywood Park Racetrack. The land is now owned by Stan Kroenke -- the same guy who owns Arsenal, the Colorado Rapids and a bunch of other pro sports teams -- and is basically around the corner from The Forum, coincidentally where the Los Angeles Lakers used to play. There have long been rumors attaching various developments to this once proud horse racing venue -- from NFL stadiums to casinos -- but nothing ever seems to quite stick.

When should we expect this team to start playing?

The league said clearly that it would be 2017 so we're going with that until told otherwise. That seems like an optimistic timetable as the league gave pretty strong hints that a new stadium deal will at least need to be in place and it's possible the new owners won't want to play anywhere else, so don't be shocked if this gets pushed out further.

Why not play in a temporary facility?

Sure, this team COULD play somewhere, and if ground is already broke on a permanent stadium than a temporary home is a distinct possibility. Titan Stadium in Fullerton has hosted many matches, including Chivas USA for U.S. Open Cup play. The LA Galaxy have played at Dodger Stadium and the Rose Bowl, too. The Memorial Coliseum is right next to one of the potential future homes of this team. And it's entirely possible they do play in one of these stadiums. But it's highly unlikely MLS will allow that to be an indefinite home, as the lack of a permanent facility was one of the many mistakes this ownership group will be keen to avoid.

Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today Sports

What happens to the Chivas USA players?

There will be a dispersal draft, reportedly by Dec. 1, but details are still being hammered out with the MLS Players' Union. The only other time this happened was in 2002 after the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion both folded. That draft basically went in the reverse order of the standings, just like the regular draft.

Will the new teams be allowed to participate?

MLS is apparently still trying to work out details with Orlando City and New York City, so that's a big unknown at this point. Those guys already staged a big to-do in order determine where they were slotted in various allocation methods and "dispersal draft" was not on the table. Maybe they'll need to do that whole thing again! Or maybe MLS will decide that since they have the Expansion Draft they don't need to participate.

So who's even going to be available in this draft?

There's been some suggestion that only players who are under contract will be made available, which makes figuring this out tougher than it already would be. But we'll assume goalkeeper Dan Kennedy goes No. 1 (presumably to the San Jose Earthquakes, who had the worst record). After that, though, it gets pretty thin. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Bobby Burling are decent center backs, Marky Delgado showed some promise and Marvin Chavez has been good before, but teams are going to start passing on their picks pretty early.

Back in 2002, the Mutiny and Fusion draft picks were also eligible for selection. We don't know for sure how MLS will treat that this year, but Toronto FC already owns Chivas USA's first-round pick, the Seattle Sounders have their second-round pick and the Colorado Rapids have their fourth-round pick, while Chivas USA has D.C. United's fourth-round pick. It's almost like they saw this coming...

What about that dude with the awesome goal celebration?

Erick Torres -- he of the many goals and robot dances -- will reportedly not be eligible for this draft.

Well, who gets him then?

Good question! Let's just let ESPN explain since they are the only ones to have anything on this:

The league is in the process of exercising the option on Torres' contract, and sources have stated that Torres will likely be made a designated player. How Torres would then be allocated hasn't been determined.

What happens to the Chivas USA academy?

MLS Commissioner Don Garber said the academy will finish its current operations, then shutter in June of 2015. That sounds suicidal because the new club won't want to have to launch an academy from scratch in 2017 when it already has an infrastructure in 2015, but Garber also said that a new academy will launch "very, very soon" so it's at least possible there will be a mostly seamless transition.

Is this really as unprecedented as it seems?

It's weird, but not entirely unprecedented. In the history of North American sports there have been plenty of examples of teams folding. There've also been plenty of examples of expansion. But never have the two things happened concurrently, for seemingly obvious reasons. The closest examples come from the various league mergers where not all the teams from the folding league were admitted into the existing one, but this is still quite different.

How are the conferences being rearranged?

The Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City are moving to the West, meaning every MLS Cup winner from 2009-2013 will be playing in the same conference. Oh, and all but one of the Supporters' Shield winners from 2010-2014 will be in the West, too. That should be a ton of fun.

Tell me more about these owners.

The majority owner looks like it will be a man named Henry Nguyen, who you've probably never heard of unless you're really into Vietnamese investment opportunities. Nguyen was raised in the United States, went to Harvard for undergrad and went to Northwestern's medical school. He eventually made his way back to his native Vietnam where he worked with some investment groups and gained some level of fame by convincing McDonald's to let him open a franchise in Hanoi.

He's now apparently fabulously rich, looking to get into the sports world and moving back to Los Angeles.

Wait a minute, what happened to Vincent Tan?

When news first came out, Tan was the most recognizable name and has gotten most of the attention. But the Cardiff City owner is just a minority partner in this group. It's entirely unclear if he'll be able to convince Nguyen to call this team the Dragons.

What about the other owners?

Peter Guber is a Hollywood type. Among other things, he runs Mandalay Entertainment, the production company behind such hits as "I Know What You Did Last Summer," "Wild Things," and a bunch of Academy Award winners. He's also the part owner of the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tom Penn is mostly an NBA guy, having worked as a so-called "cap-ologist" for ESPN. He was also an NBA executive, once rumored to be close to accepting the Philadelphia 76ers general manager position, and was an agent before that.

What do we think of this group?

Hard to say. It's an interesting mix, to say the least, and quite unlike anything else in MLS. Tan raises a lot of eyebrows and has a pretty bad reputation from how he handled the rebranding at Cardiff City. Nguyen seems more like a classic businessman. The other two guys are minority partners, but seem to more closely fit the mold of other MLS owners.

What we do know is that they have plenty of money and seem to have some good local connections, clearly two very important requirements from MLS.