MLS expansion will continue: 'We do need more teams'

MLS will kick off its 28th season on Saturday with its 29th team, expansion St. Louis City SC, in action at Austin FC.

But expansion won't end there.

MLS commissioner Don Garber expects the 30th team to be announced in 2023 and doesn't rule out further expansion.

He describes the MLS footprint — from New England to Inter Miami and LAFC and the LA Galaxy to Vancouver — as the North American pro sports model.

"We have teams across four time zones, multiple climate zones," Garber said at MLS's media day on Wednesday. "We do need more teams. The 30th team will come at some point soon. Hopefully, we'd like to get that announced by the end of the year. I never thought we'd be at 28. I never thought we'd be at 29. We'd say we're going to stop at 30, but the other major leagues are larger than that."

In his remarks before MLS Cup 2022, Garber said San Diego and Las Vegas were the top candidates — "It's not a matter of who's first or who's second," he said in November — and they remain the favorites to be selected as MLS's 30th team.

"I don't ever say never in Major League Soccer," he said. "There are many other markets that are opportunities for us. I think San Diego and Las Vegas are the most likely opportunities for 30. But we don't have a team in Phoenix; we don't have a team in Sacramento; we don't have a team in Detroit, which are all big markets in our country. You never know. Tampa is another big city. Soccer is exploding professionally everywhere, on the professional side and the men's and women's side, so we'll see."

Garber was speaking at the new studios in New York's Spanish Harlem that will be the home for MLS Season Pass's three game-day shows. MLS Season Pass is Apple TV's new subscription channel that will carry every MLS game, most on Saturday nights.

"It starts with the reconfiguration of how we are presenting our league to our fans," Garber said. "We started with fans first. How do we create a schedule that works for them as opposed to what works for a media partner? How do we create a time slot that works for our teams? Would you like to play games on Saturday night and Wednesday? How do we have the opportunity to speak in the global narrative because we are a global sport?"

The 2023 season will be the first of a 10-year agreement between MLS and Apple.

"How unbelievable is it for us to be able to partner with the leading company in the world that thinks about the fan and the consumer first," Garber said. "It's not thinking about how does my device work for them. It's how does somebody want to interact with my device and now their content that, frankly, they're great leaders in. It's been an incredible journey to get to where we are with Apple."

• On Tuesday, MLS announced it extended its agreement with adidas — the league's exclusive uniform sponsor — to remain as the official supplier for MLS, its teams and youth academies.

CNBC reported the new eight-year agreement is valued at $830 million, representing adidas' largest-ever investment in North American soccer, and will replace the current agreement that was set to expire of the end of 2024.

13 comments about "MLS expansion will continue: 'We do need more teams'".
  1. Andrew Megas, February 23, 2023 at 10:53 a.m.

    Blah, blah, blah. Garber is a hopeless windbag. The problem with MLS is Garber's vision of replicating the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL models. Expanded playoffs is a cop out. Sorry dude, it's not innovative and contradicts the global nature of the sport. If MLS goes to 32 clubs eventually they will need to restructure to make the regular season more meaningful. Without pro/rel MLS needs to have significant rewards for the supporters shield and top 4-6 regular season clubs. There should also be some type of financial penalty for the 4-6 bottom of the table clubs. "If you're not first, you're last".

  2. R2 Dad replied, February 23, 2023 at 12:10 p.m.

    Andrew, the media loves a good windbag like the Teflon Don.

  3. Donald Lee replied, February 23, 2023 at 12:56 p.m.

    I agree that Garber's and the owner's hubris, and their instinct to just model things off the NFL, holds the league back.  They finally found a good playoff model so they are ditching it for something far worse. What I don't agree with you on is financial penalty for bottom rung teams.  Your just making it harder for poor and/or unlucky teams to improve.  Teams missing the playoffs are certainly incentivized now to change.  I agree on finding ways to make the regular season more important. 

  4. Andrew Megas replied, February 23, 2023 at 8:38 p.m.

    The penalty for being uncompetitive in Europe is relegation. There is no penalty in MLS for incompetent/uncompetitive clubs in MLS. Houston, DC United, San Jose, Chicago. These are major market teams that are largely irrelevant with poisoned relations with their supporters. What is Garber doing to make them accountable?.Adding more teams, and single entity revenue sharing breeds mediocrity without repercussions.

  5. Brad Brizendine replied, February 24, 2023 at 8:01 a.m.

    Andrew, I'm curious, do you remember what things were like after NASL went bankrupt and before MLS was created? 

  6. Mark Landefeld replied, February 25, 2023 at 1:49 p.m.

    " it's not innovative and contradicts the global nature of the sport."   And yet, it follows the mold of pro sports leagues in THIS country, most with better financial success than MLS.

    A business professor wrote a paper abotu 30 years ago, describing how large playoff fields maintain increased interest in individual clubs deeper into the season.   All league follow this trend ... Frankly, UCL allowing 3rd place finished entry into the Europa League is a foreign example of following this model.  And how many European league display their standings with lines separating UEFA qualifiers to keep pointing to some marginal success a club might enjoy -- and keep driving late season interest.

  7. Ben Myers, February 23, 2023 at 1:13 p.m.

    Nope. No MLS Season Pass, with Apple TV, for me.  Not worth it. 

  8. Kevin Sims, February 23, 2023 at 1:58 p.m.

    Beware the naysayers. Despite the prior comments, the progress of MLS by any metric you may choose has been excellent. More progress lies ahead. 

  9. Ben Myers replied, February 23, 2023 at 2:20 p.m.

    Yes, I admit that MLS play has improved since its inception in 1995, as evidenced by the numbers of players who continue to move to Europe, as a result of significantly increased investment in player development academies by some MLS owners.  But play in the European professional leagues has improved as well, probably just as much, so the gap still exists.  I've been at matches in lower level pro first division (Israel) and second tier large country (England) play, and MLS play seems to be about at that level.  People who make a living grading out leagues, clubs and individual players rank MLS about on a par with the English Championship.

  10. Santiago 1314, February 23, 2023 at 4:10 p.m.

    I Repost from Yesterday;

    Santiago 1314, February 22, 2023 at 2:20 p.m.

    Look, if it Brings IN more Money, we have to "Get On Board" with it...
    Only Money for PLAYER SALARIES for YOUNG, ATTRACTIVE, ABLE Players from Every League that is NOT BPL, LaLiga, Bundesliga, SerieA is going to Make MLS the # 5 or 6 League in the World. And MLS will Probably NEVER be Able to get above #5 or #6.

    We have to Face It... ALL Players want to Play for a Euro Team in the Champions League.
    MLS will NEVER have the Traditions to Compete with that...

    MLS Needs to be able to BUY every Player that is NOT Bought Up by the Big Teams in the Big Leagues... 
    THAT WILL RAISE THE LEVEL IN THE LEAGUE and HOPEFULLY the Level of the USA Players attached to these US Teams... 

    We are COMPETING with 20 BPL Teams... 4 LaLiga Teams... 1 French Team ... 4.?? German Teams ... 4 Italian Teams...Maybe 4 WILD Card Teams(Portugal,Holland,Sherrif,Scotland)
    Let's Round it OFF to 40 Teams @ 25 Players per Team = 1,000 TOP LEVEL PLAYERS

    MLS Needs to Concentrate on the NEXT 1,000 Players... Buy, Sell, Trade... INCREASE THE PLAYER Salaries to keep them from going to 2nd Tier Euro Leagues.

    It seems like a Pretty Simple Business Model.!?!?!?  

    **Minimum (5) "Homegrown" Players on the roster and (1) on the Field AT ALL TIMES

  11. R2 Dad, February 24, 2023 at 10:28 a.m.

    Garber hasn't run out of billionaires yet to own a franchise, nor newbie sponsors like Apple to fund the TV coverage. So far, he has played his cards and is reaping the rewards. But eyeballs will only follow when  our culture and our kids are fully vested. Is your family    Watching MLS?

  12. Santiago 1314 replied, February 24, 2023 at 11:46 a.m.


  13. George Miller, February 25, 2023 at 8:42 a.m.

    Is my family watching MLS? I'm a lifelong coach player and referee with four boys who all played club, high school, some college and nobody is watching MLS. Now we have to pay a subscription to catch a game not gonna happen. MLS best players who are American Aaron long, player of the year, when he plays against the best, it's very substandard. Nobody's interested in this level of play compared to EPL N SIMILAR

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