AEG president Tim Leiweke, MLS Commish Don Garber, Jorge Vergara and Antonio Cue join hands.
Essy Ghavameddini/MLS

Plenty of room at the HDC

Salt Lake City was awarded a franchise in July -- starting play in 2005 and plans for stadiums in four MLS markets at various stages, the new L.A. club is yet another sign, Garber said, of the continuing growth of soccer in the USA.

"We are the league for a new America. We are America's fastest growing sport," Garber said. "We are the world's most popular sport, and we are sure we will make it the most popular sport in the United States."

When it was his turn to take the podium, Vergara turned away from the assembled media and spent a great deal of time speaking to the gathered Chivas fans sitting behind the stage. He said he will transfer the brand of soccer he funds and espouses to the United States and, as with his other clubs, he will demand excellence.

He also presented his first challenge to the Los Angeles Galaxy, saying the "tranquility and peace" seen during the negotiations that resulted in the new club being located in Los Angeles will end once the teams hit the field.

Vergara and his business partner Antonio Cue, a Mexican real estate mogul, were allowed entry into the Galaxy's MLS territory after paying an undisclosed fee to AEG, which owns and operates the Galaxy and four other MLS teams. AEG will also serve as the agents for the new team's local marketing and broadcast rights. But on the field, the two HDC tenants will create a rivalry expected by many to immediately become one of the fiercest in the league.

"This is a great day for Los Angeles ... a great day for soccer in America," said AEG President Tim Leiweke. "When we built (the HDC), we wanted it to become the cathedral of soccer in America, not just for some of America, but for all of America. There's no other place (Vergara's club) should have gone to.

"This will probably be the best rivalry in all of sports in Southern California."

Cue joined in the talk of a great rivalry, emphasizing his and Vergara's desire to compete in MLS immediately. He confidently stated his mission for the new L.A. franchise.

"I'm sure we're going to be champions," he said. "I have no doubt about that."

The mayors of both Los Angeles and Carson, Calif., welcomed their new club enthusiastically. They traded jerseys with Vergara and Cue, with Los Angeles Mayor Jim Hahn giving an L.A. Kings hockey jersey and Carson Mayor Jim Dear giving an L.A. Lakers basketball jersey in exchange for Chivas shirts, much to the delight of the crowd.

Two current Chivas players also joined in the celebration, as Cue introduced Francisco Palencia and Ramon Ramirez, who are expected to play with the new Los Angeles club in 2005. Both said they were excited to come to Los Angeles and help the new club establish itself - and more importantly win. The club's roster will be stocked in large part through an expansion draft to be held in late November. The team name, logo and colors will be revealed in August, and the front office -- headed by former Galaxy vice president of marketing and communications Whit Haskel as general manager -- and coaching staff will be filled out in the coming months.

Jason Halpin is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.