Garber discusses MLS’s future expansion


Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber hinted towards the future direction of his league during a wide-ranging conversation with the Associated Press Sports Editors.

”We will expand this league beyond 24 teams. It’s not an if, it’s a when,” said Garber. “‘In the next six months, we’ve got to come together and develop a plan with our ownership to determine when we go further.”

Over the past couple years, the league has said only that they wanted to have 24 teams by 2020, at which point they would assess future expansion. With 20 teams already on the field, three more joining in the next three years, and two cities vying to be 24th, the time has come for that assessment.

The fact that MLS will expand beyond 24 teams isn’t a big surprise. While most other soccer leagues have 20 or fewer clubs, MLS sees itself as more akin to other American sports, where the “big four” leagues have at least 30 teams.

On some of its more expansion decisions, Garber expressed optimism. He said that LAFC could announce its stadium plans within the next 30-45 days. This comes just days after Grant Wahl reported that the LA team is looking more likely to start play in 2018 than 2017.

On the east coast, Garber said that NYCFC’s quest for a stadium of their own “is going to take longer than we thought.” He said the club is continuing to seek a stadium deal, but is not doing so in the press.

Responding to questions about David Beckham’s project in Miami, Garber was surprisingly firm. “Miami will be in Major League Soccer by the end of the decade,” he said. There have been doubts about the Beckham group’s ability to get a stadium deal, and questions as to how long he has. That deadline appears to be far away still. He said there’s no chance of Beckham giving up on Miami and trying in another city.

Not for the first time, Garber said that MLS will be more transparent in its decision making in the future. He was not clear on when that future will be. The league plans to release its roster rules for 2015 within the next week, which suggests that the CBA deal agreed to in March is at least close to being ratified.

Other items of note:

– Garber said that the league needs to change its revenue streams. Currently the league makes more money from ticket sales and game-day spending than from media. “That needs to shift literally and be turned upside down.”

– Garber once again rejected the notion of MLS opening up to promotion and relegation. ” It makes absolutely no sense. There is not a developed secondary division.” Your thoughts, Bill Peterson?

– Garber said “the league needs to be the driver of player development in America,” as opposed to U.S. Soccer.

– Garber suggested that AEG was interested in attracting more local investors for the Houston Dynamo. AEG currently owns about half of the Dynamo, in addition to full control over the LA Galaxy.

– Garber said that the Kraft family remains committed to building a soccer-specific stadium for the New England Revolution in Boston. rumors about the Revs building a new stadium have been gently stirred by the club every once in a while for the past seven years.




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  • Smith

    Having watched MLS since Day One, I’m not so sure the US has a developed 1st division either.

    • Willy wonka

      Exactly, just my thoughts.
      I’m afraid japan, china or some other country like Russia might learn from MLS and take giant steps and stop the growth on MLS.
      Not only those countries I mention but even Mexico might take giant steps into the modern era of soccer and keep MLS below them on purpose.
      It’s also amazing how MLS doesn’t think of making an MLS2, unbelievable.
      MLS has to be careful, and take the soccer thing serious before we get turned off by all the teasing.

      • Smith

        Watching the first few weeks of this season, I have seen dull, uninspiring low scoring soccer from MLS. It’s been pretty unwatchable and 1st division in name only. Let’s be honest with ourselves, Don, ok?

        • slowleftarm

          Well four different teams scored four goals yesterday so …

    • Andrew Bissonette

      I’m sorry, but that is an extremely stupid thing to say. When the league is considered amongst the top 10-15 leagues in the world and has the attendance to back it up, it is easily a viable first division. Even with the rise of Asian Football and their lucrative spending, they don’t come close to matching the quality of our league from top to bottom.

      • Smith

        From a business standpoint, sure.

        From a quality standpoint, not at all.

  • Chepe pedos

    Too many teams , less interest in the league , just the way I see it… If it was two different leagues with 20 team each it would be great… But one league with 30 teams , is ridiculous …I remember garber saying they did not want to follow the old nasl , with over 26 teams … Mls is too greedy, all they want is the 100 million just to play in a league, but offer mid level soccer …. Sorry guys , but I would rather watch a team play in the NASL or USL , and spend that 100 million on players , and put a great team …sorry garber , but too many teams , less interest , especially no promotion or relegation

    • Willy wonka

      I believe MLS can have 26 to 32 teams but if MLS doesn’t pressure those owners who don’t want to waste money on a stadium or flashy dps then it will eventually become a problem.
      Look what’s happening now, a gap is growing between MLS 1.0 and 2.0 teams and MLS 3.0 is coming sooner than we expected.
      At the end of the day, we will never know Garbers future plans but hopefully garber plans on making an MLS2 and modify his awkward league rules.

    • Gazza

      Cite the case of a NASL or USL team spending or planning to spend $100m on players?

      Most NASL teams total payroll are less than $50k

      • Smith

        Do you really 50K or 500K?

    • Jameson Pester

      I would like pro/rel as much as anyone, but facts are facts. Interest in MLS has increased as the league has expanded, not decreased. It’s not ridiculous for a league to have 30+ teams. Literally every other major league in USA/Canada has that many teams. A league is never going to be “major” here as long as it leaves huge swathes of these countries without a team to call their own. We’re talking about two of the biggest countries in the world with a combined population of about 350 million. European leagues can get by with 20 teams, but they have a fraction of our population and their soccer pyramids have been established for generations.

      • slowleftarm

        Ok so why don’t we establish our soccer pyramid now so that generations from now it’ll be “established”?

        • Jameson Pester

          We’re doing that. It doesn’t happen overnight. The best thing for our pyramid is a truly major first division. That’s much more likely with the same number of teams as our other major leagues.

  • The Don

    I’m a very handsome and smart man, aren’t I?

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