With strong interest from several ownership groups in an expansion team, MLS Commissioner Don Garber says his circuit is debating whether to move past 24 teams and operate a larger league.
Interviewed by Alexi Lalas on the Fox Sports 1 telecast of the San Jose Earthquakes’ debut at Avaya Stadium, Garber had this to say about the future of the league and how the current environment compares to previous MLS expansion and contract, from Goal.com:
“Very different from the past. It’s a different soccer environment here in this country and in Canada. Very different around the world. Our owners are different, the plan is different,” Garber said. “We never thought we would get, when we were at 10, to 14, then at 16, then we have a goal for 24. We’re really evaluating going past that. We’ve got a couple more decisions we need to make. I imagine some time in, you know, the next year or so, we’re going to lay out the plan for how large this league can be.”
The current MLS goal is expanding to 24 teams by 2018. This season saw the addition of Orlando City SC and New York City FC to the MLS lineup; with the suspension of Chivas USA, MLS is now a 20-team league. Adding LAFC (the recast Chivas USA) and Atlanta to the league puts MLS at 22 teams in 2017. Multiple reports have a Minnesota team joining MLS in 2018, leaving a final slot before the circuit reaches 24 teams. Miami has been widely assumed to be in that slot given that David Beckham has a contractual right to a team at a discount with investors working on a new-stadium plan in that city, but with no plan in the works, Miami is far from a lock. And with Sacramento interests putting together a stadium plan with a solid fan base, it’s no surprise there’s talk about whether that 24-team limit is set in stone. Why not 26? Why not 30?
So much, as it ends up, will depend on if Beckham and his investor team. He’s been hinting at some big news on his Twitter feed, but so far nothing has been announced. And Garber is clearly holding out hope that Miami will work out:
“It’s got to be the right stadium plan,” Garber said. “These folks are going to sell out every game, and when you have the right stadium plan in the right environment, we have success. And we don’t have that yet, David and his partners are doing a great job trying to get it done. We’ll be there in the next couple of weeks — hope to be able to get something done.”
He may be a little optimistic that a Beckham-owned team will sell out every game — the demographics are great, but Miami sports fans are notoriously fickle — but it’s clear the league is hot to be in Miami.