Referencing the goal scorers in this weekend's SuperClasico, @BlackArmy1850 observed:
"Blue Collar values illustrated by Clasico goals: Mcbean (Newport, avg family income $201k) vs Alvarez (East LA, $33k). Economical Rivalry?"
I know nothing about either Jack McBean or Carlos Alvarez's family life, so I don't want to assume that these numbers illustrate a gospel truth about either player. However, I think the Black Army makes an interesting point. I would speculate that Chivas USA's roster contains a number of players who have come from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds, perhaps as many as any other team in the league. Even more compellingly, however, it raises the question of what makes the Chivas USA fanbase unique.
It's no secret that Hispanic families face steep economic disadvantages in the United States, and that disparity is particularly noteworthy in the Los Angeles area. Federal economic data shows that the income gap in Los Angeles is 67.2%, making it the worst market in the nation for Hispanic earning power. The Pew Hispanic Center shows [PDF] that Hispanic adults in LA are twice as likely as the total population to lack a high school diploma and 50% more likely to lack health insurance. The recession of the late 2000s has increased the income gap; the percentage decrease in median income between 2007 and 2008 was over twice as high for Latino households compared to non-Latinos, leaving 31% of Latino children below the poverty line (compared to 11% of white children).
For a team that relies on a heavily Hispanic fan base, these numbers represent a unique challenge. Ticket prices are relatively low in Major League Soccer compared to other professional sports, but the costs associated with attending a game are still considerable. Buying tickets for every family member is just the beginning. Getting to and from the stadium costs either gas and parking or public transportation, and the Home Depot Center is notoriously far from the Los Angeles city center. Food and souvenir prices are inflated. Even having the free time can be a struggle; workers in low income jobs are much more likely to have scheduled shifts on weekends.
While Chivas is obviously suffering from an attendance problem, their numbers on social media sites are competitive with (or exceed) any other team in Major League Soccer. Part of this may be spillover from the Guadalajara fan base, but it's also important to note that following a team on Twitter or Facebook is a low-cost way to express one's fandom. I believe that Chivas USA probably has the highest percentage of fans who are simply priced out of game attendance, or whose strained entertainment budgets make it a greater sacrifice to support an under-performing team. This doesn't mean that the attendance problem isn't just as bad – the economic realities of MLS dictate that the team needs to fill seats. However, it should give MLS supporters pause when they insist that Chivas USA has no fans. If the franchise does face folding or relocation, it may hurt more people than a casual look at attendance figures would suggest.