Garber: Sacramento could join MLS before Miami

IMAGE, DAVE MARTINEZ FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by RYAN BRISTER

In his annual “State of the League” press conference, Don Garber spoke on many subjects, but most pressingly the expansion situation in Miami.

“We have been focused on a team in Miami almost since we left. Miami continues to represent a city of importance to us. Having said that, if they can’t finalize a deal for a stadium, they will not have an MLS team.” He refused to put a date or deadline on Beckham’s stadium plans beyond “soon.”

Beckham has been struggling for nearly two years now to reach a stadium deal with Miami so as to exercise his option for an expansion team. Meanwhile, Sacramento City Council recently approved a term sheet that would allow for Republic FC to build a soccer-specific stadium.

“We’re impressed with what the Republic has put together, and we’re certainly impressed by what the city has done to get behind them.” Citing the league’s broader expansion plans, Garber admitted that Sacramento wasn’t initially on the league’s radar as a strategically important market. “Then we saw what they’ve been doing with the Republic. Sacramento will be very high on our next clubs to come in the league.” He later added that it was “conceivable that Sacramento could be higher on our expansion list” than Miami.

Garber used the occasion of the 20th MLS Cup to reminisce about how far the league has come and the many struggles it had when he first took over.

“We’ve traveled a long way from the early days of having things like shootouts and teams named Clash and Burn. The was a time when we were really questioning whether this league would survive.” He said that people used to ask him when soccer would make it big in the US, but that doesn’t happen as much anymore.

“20 years represents in demographic research and marketing a full generation. We are entering a time when there are consumers and fans who grew up with MLS in their lives. The millennial population represents a larger portion of the MLS fanbase than they do the NFL, MLB, the NBA, or the NHL.”

In his opening statement, Garber spoke at length about the league’s quality and it structure. With regards to the single-entity ownership format, he said it “hasn’t had any impact on slowing down what is happening on the field. Exactly the opposite, it has been critical to what has been driving the success.”

He noted the league’s parity, and the fact that two small markets are competing in Sunday’s MLS Cup Final. “It is not a league of haves and have-nots. It’s a league where if you’re smart, you get rewarded. And that is something that is empowering for fans.”

With respect to the league’s quality, Garber noted that “there used to be a time when the Mexican national team coach told players, ‘If you go to MLS, your national team career is over.’ And now with Giovani Dos Santos you’re seeing that doesn’t really happen anymore.”

But the league has no plans to shed its cautious approach to growth. “If we want to be more competitive globally, ultimately we have to spend more money. But we’re not going to do that until we have more revenue.”

Asked whether the league’s playoff format does enough to reward the teams who perform best during the regular season, Garber said that “I do believe that the ball bounces a variety of ways, and everything can happen in any given game. That’s what makes sports fun and watchable.” With regards to the playoffs, he said “We shouldn’t be afraid to evaluate whether away goals are working.” MLS has used the away goals rule during the playoffs only since 2014.

Garber said that the league was “very seriously considering” taking a two week break during next summer’s Copa America Centennario, the way it typically does for the World Cup.

On financial transparency: “I think it’s important that we inform the public about our deep commitment,” but he declined to offer figures on the league’s off-field spending, which he recently claimed was “infinitely higher” than the league’s notoriously low salary cap.

On diversity: “All we can do is ensure we have the best possible candidates and provide minority candidates with the best possible opportunities.”

 

 

 

 

  • slowleftarm

    Evil DON !!!!!!!!!!

  • Peter from Family guy

    Atlanta 2017
    Minnesota 2017 playing at target field and stadium opens half season
    (Bringing Atlanta and Minnesota in at the same time would mean Minnesota would be in the west) Don’t make 3 conferences!!!!!!
    Or
    Atlanta 2017 LAFC 2018 with new stadium
    Sacramento 2017 Miami 2018 with new stadium
    And Minnesota just joins anytime they are ready which might be 2017 or 2018
    But 3 teams in at the same time is too much, which means we are looking at expansion to 26.
    Let’s be honest, Sacramento is in but who will be #26 and it has to be an east team since LAFC, Minnesota, and Sacramento are west.
    Then you have Atlanta, Miami, and I’m guessing st.louis or Charlotte as the 26 team.