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Feb 20, 2014

What does Vergara selling Chivas USA mean for Guadalajara?

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes sold Chivas USA to Major League Soccer on Thursday, ending a rocky relationship that had been the writing on the wall for a long time. Not since 2009 had the team made the playoffs and there had been a general lack of ideas -- aside from periodic statements about returning the club to its traditional Guadalajara roots -- as well as real investment in the playing staff.

The financial details were not disclosed, but the deal undoubtedly has repercussions for Guadalajara, even if it isn’t 100 percent clear as yet what they are. First, it once again affirms that Vergara and Fuentes are rational business actors. “Chivas USA wasn’t a headache, we just got ourselves out of a bad investment,” Vergara Thursday said on ESPN Radio’s "Jorge Ramos $amp; Banda" show. The investment wasn’t paying dividends and, although Vergara denied it, Chivas USA was a major drag on both him and the Chivas brand in the U.S. -- especially in recent years with the racism lawsuit, the poor performances and low average attendances. It was bad news on top of bad news, coupled with Guadalajara also suffering on the field, so it made sense for the owners to wash their hands of Chivas USA.

There is also a precedent with Costa Rica’s Saprissa, which Vergara owned for eight years before being bought out in April 2011. Should a competitive bid come in for Chivas, there isn’t any reason to think they wouldn’t sell, although the numbers would have to matches the owners' often lofty expectations -- Vergara has said Chivas is worth over $500 million. On the other hand, this could be a bid from Vergara and Fuentes to retreat to Guadalajara, invest heavily and get the club functioning and competing regularly at the top of the table. Vergara alluded to the diversion of funds from the MLS franchise back to Guadalajara in interviews on Thursday, although he didn’t give details. The Chivas USA sale comes at a time when Vergara has stated that the sale of second division side Tapatio in 2009 was a huge mistake, and those two events may be relevant. There has been a clear problem between Chivas winning Under-20 finals and consistently competing at youth level and replicating that success at first-team level. Part of that is the gap that exists between the U-20s (basically the reserve team in Mexico) and the full first team.

The sale of Tapatio shattered that bridge and it would make sense for Chivas’ owners to reinvest some of the money gained through the sale into a farm team, the kind of which helped the likes of Carlos Salcido, Javier Hernandez, Marco Fabian, Jonny Magallon, Omar Bravo and Francisco Rodriguez develop into the top professionals. But these are turbulent times for Chivas, and Vergara’s words should be taken with a pinch of salt. After all, he said the sale of Chivas USA was nowhere near a reality on Tuesday, yet two days later it was a done deal.