The long rumored demise of Chivas USA was finally confirmed today by MLS. The team has ceased operations and their players will be dispersed via a draft. The team folding and the addition of New York City FC and Orlando City SC means that the Eastern Conference has 12 teams and the West has only 8, meaning realignment has taken place as well.
As part of the realignment, Sporting Kansas City is heading back to the Western Conference along with the Houston Dynamo. Kansas City started in the West when MLS was launched in 1996. KC was in the conference until the 2005 season when they moved to the East to accommodate the additions of Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake. So after 10 years in the East, Sporting will now get to attempt to rebuild rivalries with Colorado, Dallas, and LA that were lost a bit with the move to the East. It, I feel, has been one of the blows for KC in creating a rivalry. KC and Dallas originally looked like they could develop one after the playoffs in 1996, but the addition of Chicago in 1998 and the creation of the Brimstone Cup helped to stop that. Then came the move East where the likes of Chicago and Columbus, KC's two closest Eastern rivals already had developed rivalries with teams. Sporting, with the rebranding tried to force the Chicago match up to become a rivalry, but it never really succeeded. The team did develop an on field rivalry with the Houston Dynamo, and they'll get to attempt to keep that with the move, but will now have to fight Dallas for that.
While the West is hands down the better conference, the same was true when KC originally moved East back in 2005. DC had just won MLS Cup over Kansas City, the Columbus Crew had won the Supporters' Shield (also over KC), and the Wizards had just won the US Open Cup.
Now we flip the script back to the West where Seattle holds two of the three trophies currently.
The good news for KC is that Sporting has done well against the West over the last few years, going 21-12-12 since the start of the 2011 season. They'll certainly need that sort of form to continue as they wouldn't have made the playoffs this year if they were in the West, finishing behind fifth place Vancouver who had 50 points.
The West will now have the last 10 MLS Cup finalists in the conference next season. It goes without saying, the West will be stacked next year. And with the new schedule, KC will play six of the teams three times next year, the other three they will play twice. Like this year KC would play each team in the other conference once a year.
As a KC fan who lived through Lamar Hunt putting this team up for sale I had a sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. That dread is now what has manifested for Chivas fans. I know they didn't have a whole lot, neither did KC when Hunt put the team up for sale. My heart does go out to the die hard Chivas fans that I've met.