Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Don Garber: 'We're a long-term play.'
by Ridge Mahoney, March 24th, 2009 7AM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

[MLS]Not for a few years will it be known if aggressive expansion by MLS owners in the five-year period from 2007 to 2011 is brazen or brilliant, or both. By adding Toronto, San Jose, Seattle, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Portland in that span, assuming all goes as planned, the league will have increased its membership sharply from 12 to 18 teams. It will have banked more than $150 million in expansion fees, greatly expanded its national TV footprint, and added some of North America's largest markets.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber concedes the future is murky at best and foreboding at worst, not just for MLS investors and those who might yet come aboard, but just about everybody.

 

"I think it is impossible to tell," says Garber, who will celebrate his 10th anniversary as league commissioner in August. "It's unusual for us as Americans to wake up this way, because we're born with an optimism that exists just as part of our character, and a lot of that optimism has been knocked out of the system. We wake up every day thinking tomorrow is going to be worse instead of better, which is unusual in our society."

By adding three teams in the Northwest, MLS officials see a similar frisson of regional competition as exists in the Northeast and between the Texas teams, the Los Angeles teams, etc. Adding more teams in the Western time zone can increase the chances of a weekly doubleheader televised nationally as well as drive up attendances through traveling fans crisscrossing the three Northwest cities, and the Philadelphia franchise will draw fans from three states, with several rivals within range of cars or trains.

"It's a very positive story," says Garber. "From the geographic standpoint, our sport is built on rivalries. It drives the game of football in England, it drives it in Italy, in Spain, in Brazil and we need it to drive it in our country, too. Now that we have a team [Vancouver] just up the road from Seattle, which is obviously doing very, very well, bodes well for the future of our league."

Adding Portland gives the Sounders a foe to the south as well, and rekindles long-standing rivalries not only from the NASL days, but those of the USL. Hard-fought meetings during the USL regular season and in the playoffs will carry over, since some of the players will be the same and so will be the team uniforms, more or less, and nicknames, which, again, mirror those of the NASL days.

MLS has taken some steps to maintain the level of play amid rapid expansion, increasing the slots available for foreign players while reducing rosters from 28 to 24 players. Teams can field as many as 20 on the regular roster but only four developmental players. That does cut down the potential pool, though few players on the final few rungs of the roster in past seasons contributed significantly.

Teams can't rely on outside sources for players indefinitely. In the next few years MLS needs to coordinate its youth-team programs with some sort of reserve team and find a viable alternative to the Reserve Division, which it terminated after the 2008 season. Like Seattle, Vancouver and Portland will come into MLS staffed by executives, officials, employees, players and coaches building towards their entry into the top tier.

The effects of expansion on quality of play will bear watching in the next few seasons, though Seattle has apparently done a pretty good job of stocking its roster. As with just about everything else, quality of players is largely a function of funds, which MLS is notoriously selective about disbursing.

The collective bargaining agreement between the MLS Players Union and MLS expires at the end of the season; on the one hand, banking expansion money is a tough stance from which to insist on holding the bottom line, yet high unemployment figures and economic gloom would strengthen whatever frugal measures the league might prefer.

Says Garber, "We're a long-term play. The times we're going through, while challenging for all of us, are temporary. We need to be sure when we come out of the recession we're positioned for growth, with strong investors in the right markets and good facilities."

 



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
MLS Week 10: Weekend schedule    
The MLS weekend begins Friday night when Orlando City hosts the New York Red Bulls, winners ...
MLS: The best player moves of 2016 (Part 2)    
MLS lists 12 different mechanisms by which a team can acquire a player. On Thursday, we ...
What They're Saying: Dan Hunt    
"What was exciting for me was how U.S. Soccer not only latched onto this concept, but ...
What They're Saying: Brad Evans    
"I'll play soccer for free if I can smash your face in that bowl." -- U.S. ...
Hall of Fame: The two who are missing    
The election to the National Soccer Hall of Fame of Brandi Chastain (in her first year ...
Futsal: USA falls to Canada in qualifying play-in    
The USA's quest to qualify for the 2016 Futsal World Cup ended when it lost to ...
Video Pick: Brazilian 14-year-old scores with scorpion kick    
Very likely the most amazing goal you'll see this week is a scorpion kick golazo by ...
Chastain, MacMillan and Garber headed to Hall of Fame    
U.S. Women's World Cup champions and Olympic gold-medalists Brandi Chastain and Shannon MacMillan and MLS commissioner ...
Copa Centenario: Brazil overhaul is complete    
Brazil coach Dunga announced his 23-player squad for the Copa Centenario, which represents an almost complete ...
Video Pick: Doin' the Yaya Toure Hustle    
Embarrassing video of Yaya Toure lollygagging around the Bernabeau on Wednesday embodied Manchester City's listless Champions ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives