With the 2014 season upon us, MLS Commissioner Don Garber sat down to answer questions from fans and the media, covering the state of the league and MLS expansion options.
You can sit through the entire interview here:
If that’s too much for you, we’ve gone through to capture the highlights. He was specific about the potential MLS expansion options — surprisingly so. It’s no secret that the league leaders would like to be at 24 teams in the near future, up from the current 19 MLS franchises. That’s a pretty ambitious goal for expansion, but with most MLS teams on solid footing, it may not be an unrealistic goal. Here’s Garber’s assessment of MLS expansion options:
- Atlanta: Thumbs up. “Discussions with Arthur Blank and his family have been going on since 2008….There’s not a rush to finalize something there. The new stadium that they’re planning is not going to open up for a number of years.”
- Texas (Austin and San Antonio): Thumb sideways. “It’s premature for both markets….Expanding in Texas, that’s likely going to happen.”
- Cleveland: Thumbs down. “We need more teams in the Midwest, [but] there haven’t been any discussions of late.”
- Detroit: Thumbs down.“We know there’s been some interest. There haven’t been any discussions. Not sure it’s on the short list, but you never know.”
- Minnesota: Thumbs up. “Minneapolis is on the short list. Lots of interest there. We’ve had a high level of activity with the current Minnesota United ownership group….We think they’re smart, we think they’re focused, and they’re great community citizens.”
- North Carolina: Thumb sideways. “We’ve always looked around it, because it is a hotbed of soccer….We’ll monitor it. We’ve said we need to get south of Washington, D.C. Atlanta is a southern team. [He didn’t mention Orlando, scheduled to compete beginning in 2015.] I’m not sure North Carolina is coming anytime soon.”
- Sacramento: Thumbs up. “Support the Republic; get behind it; build that team; build that brand.”
In general, it’s not a good idea to expand while there are still problem franchises, but you could argue there are really only two “problem” franchises in MLS: Chivas USA, where the league took over the team and is looking to sell the franchise, and New York City FC, which faces facility issues. (Yes, we know the challenges are not equivalent.) Of Chivas USA, Garber was pretty clear that it was a goal to sell the team to the right owner, but nothing is imminent: “We have not set a price for it because we haven’t decided how we’re going to go about that process, because the first thing we need to do is get the ship back on path.” One thing that won’t happen, at least in the short term: the team won’t be moving out of the Los Angeles area.
Regarding New York City FC: yes, it will be tough to get city help on a new facility, but an announcement about a short-term solution (which is expected to be Yankee Stadium, despite MLB opposition) is expected within the next month.