Garber touches on expansion, schedule and more in latest State of the League address

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photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com

With the 17th season in MLS history just weeks away from kicking off, commissioner Don Garber held his latest State of the League address in Columbus, Ohio to discuss some of the hotter topics.

Accompanied by Columbus Crew owner Clark Hunt and Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers, Garber touched on everything from the Crew's season ticket sales to the league's schedule.

Of interest to many fans and pundits, Garber also spoke about the league's ongoing search for a 20th franchise. Garber continued to stress that the league is working on getting it to be a team in New York.

"We are working hard on New York and working with the Mayor's office and city," Garber said.

Scheduled to meet with owners of USL Pro club Orando City SC and that city's mayor and officials on March 1, Garber stated that the league is looking to return to Florida in the future.

"We need to be in Florida at some point," Garber said.

Garber may want the league to return to Florida, but he admitted he was "gun-shy" over giving Tampa another chance considering its previous team, the Tampa Bay Mutiny, folded in 2001.

Garber also said the league's schedule will need to be altered in the future so that it is more in sync with FIFA's international calender. He did not offer a timetable as to when that might happen.

"I think at some point, and I don't know when that point is, we'll probably have to be more aligned with the international calendar," said Garber. "How we get there and when we get there remains to be seen."

A topic the MLS commisioner, Hunt and McCullers all touched on was the Columbus Crew's effort to reach 10,000 season ticket holders, just as they did in 1999 and as recently as 2006.

McCullers would not say how many season tickets had been sold to date, though he did reveal that the totals had already surpassed that of 2011. Still, Garber wants Crew fans to get back to the 10,000 figure.

"There's no reason why you can’t have that now," said Garber. "You've got a lot of teams with 10,000 season tickets. You've got to get back to that point."

Garber also gave Crew fans some good news when he stated the league would continue help the team as much as possible in the future. 

"We're going to continue to provide whatever resources the league can," Garber said, "to bring the team back to the position it was in a few years ago."

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What do you think of Garber's comments? Do you see New York or Orlando getting the 20th franchise? Agree with Garber saying that MLS needs to be more aligned with the international calendar?

Share your thoughts below.

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75 Responses to Garber touches on expansion, schedule and more in latest State of the League address

  1. Will says:

    I wish I was 10 years older and more successful, so I could bring a team to Charlotte like there should be. I don’t understand why you would put a team in Florida when the next closest team would be in DC. If you want to get back to Florida, fine, but you have to gradually move to Florida. Put a team in Charlotte and maybe Atlanta and Tennessee too before you just put an outlier in Florida.

  2. NYRB have a hard time filling the stadium now. Its embarrasing sometimes sitting there when the stadium is 3/4 full and they announce a sell out crowd. What will happen if NYC gets a team? Cant be good.

    One thing for sure, Im not going into NYC to see a game. But its good for people in the city.

  3. Siberian says:

    I am really undecided on the calendar issue. I love watching soccer during the summer, but I don’t like having the playoffs in November.

  4. Shawn says:

    If you’re going to put a team in NC it should be in Raleigh.

  5. soccerroo says:

    My guess is they are trying for bigger TV markets. Not sure where Charlotte fall in that categorie compared to Florida. That is one of the reasons to put a 2nd team in NY. The only reason,I can think of, Atlanta is not in the running is because they have a history of not supporting teams in their market.

  6. Kasey says:

    YEah, they should never have put a team in Seattle.

    Uh wait…

  7. Cliff says:

    So does Florida, especially South Florida. Orlando may be different, but Miami doesn’t even support the best team in the NBA. It’s also telling that a major U.S. city can’t sell out a NFL game.

  8. Vic says:

    Speaking of the tv markets. Currently MSG covers Red Bull games. They have another channel MSG Plus. Would MSG two soccer games on the same night? Knicks and Rangers are also shown on those channels.

  9. sam says:

    Fox Sports West would show both Chivas USA and Galaxy games, sometimes back to back.

  10. Sean says:

    I don’t understand why Garber and MLS want a second team in NYC. The Red Bulls aren’t selling out every night. I don’t get it. There are plenty of cities that are deserving of a team.

  11. DadRyan says:

    You think the league did that blindly without having a vision of further expansion in Portland and Vancouver? Gimme a break dude. Is that you Kasey Keller?

  12. DadRyan says:

    Maybe because it’s a HUGE market… not to mention the Red Bulls don’t even play in NY…

  13. Kelly says:

    What does he mean about giving assistance to Columbus? What is wrong with Columbus? Are they in financial trouble? Not supported enough? Potential move in their future?

    Also, the most international city in the Southeast is Atlanta. They need a team ahead of Orlando or Charlotte. They also have a willing owner in Blank (Falcon’s owner) and already have a site ready for a soccer specific stadium in Kennesaw.

  14. Stephen says:

    IMO, allowing NYRB to build a stadium in Harrison, NJ was a colossal mistake — a great stadium, but a terrible location, based, partly I assume, on the idea that MLS can win in the suburbs, which it can’t. NYC should have an MLS team, but where does that leave NYRB? I just don’t see how it all works out.

    With cities in the south vying for MLS attention again, it just makes it clear that a promotion/relegation system can work here. Keep MLS at 20 teams. There are already a handful of good markets hungry for promotion to it. Let that list grow to 12 or so teams in the next decade and then get a true second division going.

    The good fanbases (I think) would be willing to risk relegation if it made the league better.

  15. Ken says:

    An Apertura and Clausura works for me

  16. bryan says:

    people need to realize a team IN the city will attract fans a lot easier than RBNY. further, all we hear about from foreign stars is that they want to be in LA and NY. given the DP rule, the best way to get more stars into NY is to give them another team. Chivas could be doing the same thing, but their obsession will staying Chivas USA alienates a lot of would-be fans and they’re roster requirements don’t easily allow for foreign stars.

    having said all of that, i think Miami would be an easy draw for foreign stars. the problem is, Miami isn’t the best sports town. the stars would need to be there from day 1, otherwise i am not sure it would work. Orlando isn’t a terrible idea though. i think it could be a good draw for DPs. the Tampa talk just needs to go away. it’s has to be Orlando or Miami.

  17. Tweaked says:

    Sometimes embarrassing?…all NYRB games are embarrassing.

  18. And you’ve been to how many now Sqeaked er tweaked?

  19. RK says:

    Kennesaw is too small.

  20. RK says:

    And owned by Kennesaw St.

  21. CrazyJon85 says:

    St louis needs and deserves a team end of story

  22. k says:

    the gerber boy only cares about NY and LA, every rule change, every league decision is done with the expressed purpose of making NY and LA successful, he does not care about any other city except to fill out the schedule. the DP rule was created so LA could win, the unballanced schedule was created so NY could win, it goes on and on and on…

  23. BK says:

    Amazing to me that they would consider a THIRD team in Florida after the first two failed. MLS currently has ZERO presence in the entire southeastern quarter of the country but to try again in FL just because some idiot investor is based there is insanity.

    Why the hell is the league promising to return the Columbus Crew to prominance?! What business of the league is it to pick winners and losers? I’m losing faith in the equality-for-all, communistic league structure. Its bad for US soccer. Maybe the league should focus on courting the interested investors in Atlanta rather than playing favorites among the current ones.

  24. BK says:

    Because Garber has an inferiority complex and wants oh-so-badly for this league to be taken seriously. How else can you explain his mind-boggling interest in a 3rd failed franchise in FL?

  25. BK says:

    Welcome to communism…where the grand leaders pick winners and losers.

  26. Annelid Gustator says:

    Because the midwest is another good region for expansion? Indy and St. Louis, if they could get over the threshold of a realistic ownership group, could possibly support a franchise in a really cost effective way (somewhat less expensive travel to either coasts and most of the centrally located franchiese, cheaper land available near something like city centers, lower general expenses than the coasts, etc.).

  27. DCLee says:

    @k Was that why Luis Robles was ruled to have to go through allocation instead of a free pass to NYRB because the league tilts everything NYs way?

  28. Matt (NEF) says:

    +1

  29. mistadobolina says:

    if you travel to europe and go to sporting goods stores and flip thru the jerseys you occasionally will see a LA Galaxy shirt, never any other MLS sides (maybe a NYRB or Seattle) but you can easily find a COSMOS jersey.

    Garber wants the Cosmos to be this league’s New York Yankees. and personally i think they could be..

  30. mistadobolina says:

    +2

  31. Matt (NEF) says:

    Find a owner and have a stadium plan in place, then get back to us.

  32. ACF says:

    Blank’s interest abated when the economy went south. But the Atlanta Sports Commission is committed to soccer and the audience is clearly there. A team in the city center would be the wrong approach, though, imo because Atlanta is so spread out. Kennesaw or Gwinnett (home of AAA Braves, Arena Football, and minor league hockey) would make sense if the right location was found. Silverbacks would be more successful if they weren’t playing in that crappy Dekalb stadium.

  33. Chris says:

    “One thing for sure, Im not going into NYC to see a game. But its good for people in the city.”

    This is the reason that NYRB do not fill out the stadium all the time. I don’t believe people realize how much of a hassle it is to travel to different parts of the city.

    While the stadium is right near public transit it is still at least an hour, typically well over that, for most of the NY metro area to get there.

  34. mistadobolina says:

    Seattle was never called a “good sports town” before Sounders happend.. Mariners and Sonics never had anything more than fair-weather fans..

    Meanwhile Boston and Chicago have always been “top level sports towns”

    My point is how a city supports their baseball and basketball teams really isnt a good indicator for their potential MLS support.

  35. ACF says:

    ATL has a bad rap, but it’s not entirely deserved. Most people in the ATL area are not from the area and so are more committed to their old home teams in NFL, MLB, etc. But the vast majority of people have no such roots with MLS, and the opportunity would be there to build a fan base from scratch. LOTS of people play and watch soccer in ATL.

    Also worth mentioning that most ATL teams develop regional interest. Close to half the attendance at Braves games, for example, come from more than 2 hours away. A team in ATL would draw fans from SC, TN, AL, etc.

  36. Tim F. says:

    NYC baby!

  37. Matt (NEF) says:

    This taking an hour to get to stadiums is just an lame excuse. It takes my friends and I anywhere from 45 to 90 mins to get to a game in Seattle from where we live.

    If you love your team or soccer in general, this is only an inconvience. Not a deal breaker for going to games or supporting your team.

  38. mistadobolina says:

    apparently he cares about Columbus too…

  39. Joamiq says:

    This is overblown. CitiField and Yankee Stadium are in the farthest corners of the city and it takes a lot of people well over an hour to get there, but it doesn’t stop people from going. RBA is very conveniently located – the travel time from midtown Manhattan to RBA is less than it is to the baseball stadiums. Not to mention how long it takes for anyone living anywhere to get to the new Meadowlands. Bottom line, travel time shouldn’t be stopping anyone from going to RBA.

  40. Joamiq says:

    I wouldn’t exactly call Newark “the suburbs”.

  41. Uncle Ed says:

    You failed to mention how Garber spoke more about Miami than Orlando. The times are changing and Garber knows it. That’s why he mentioned the big draws at the Barcelona, USA and Gold Cup games. The Strikers even average 4K and that’s in Div 2 with no stars.
    South Florida has a big TV market and MLS stands to make much money out of it. To have a true national foothold MLS needs Miami. Not Mickey Mouse town.

  42. KL says:

    Stop with the pro/rel nonsense! It is not happening! Ever!!! We don’t have the metric system either. And our money isn’t called euros or pounds.

  43. Charles says:

    You forgot about the part of bankrupting the city.

    Good that you got a pro/rel arguement in. ;-)

  44. RK says:

    Cry me a river. It would take me 10 hours to drive to a match.

  45. Chuck says:

    20th Team should be the Cosmos and the stop at 20 teams, a new market can come in until one goes broke or something.

    NYRB then can become Newark RB or NJRB

  46. Luke says:

    I was thinking the same thing. Several Latin America leagues do the dual seasons/year thing. Argentina and Mexico come to mind.

  47. JonesJunior says:

    The New York Red Bulls are a Newark, NJ area team. Those are the people who go to the stadium and before/after they hang out in that area. If New York gets a team in Brooklyn or Queens (Manhattan is impossible), then actual New Yorkers will go to the games and feel some loyalty to the league. People from the boroughs don’t really go to Red Bulls games. Maybe they watch them on TV, but that’s as far as that extends. Bring a team to the boroughs and New Yorkers will accept them and they’ll get 30,000+ in the stands with ease.

  48. ACF says:

    If you’re OK with not having a truly national league. An entire quadrant of the country — potentially the fastest growing one at that, left out — doesn’t make sense.

  49. Kejsare says:

    International calendar != fall-spring schedule. Garber may likely mean aligning behind the FIFA scheduled dates. Much like they are this year.

  50. Boris says:

    Where’s the Minnesota Love? Soccer is pretty popular there along with Hockey and Football. I grew up playing in the USA Cup, an absolutely massive tournament, grew up in traveling soccer, high school soccer, even played a bit in college. With the Minnesota Stars slowly getting more popular (again), and the younger generations who are much more soccer-friendly, starting to get up in the “correct age range” for buying tickets, I could see Minneapolis being a viable place. (Though then Wisconsin would have to have a team to have a “bitter rivalry” like the Packers and Vikings!)

  51. MASE NJRB says:

    It would make it a true rivalry, cant have a NY derby when one team plays in Jersey. Attendance wouldnt be a problem either for “NJRB” since most of the fans are from NJ anyway. Who knows maybe it will even increase attendance numbers. Im all for it!!

  52. Kasey says:

    But SSFC Timbers and Whitecaps are Mainstream sports outfits in their markets. Are the Revs or Fire..? No. If you have to mention the Sonics and Mariners you have no clue about the solid Sounders demographic.

  53. Chris says:

    I’m going to call total BS on Yankee Stadium being farther for most people. Getting to the 4/B/D/Metro North is MUCH easier and faster for most people than getting to the PATH and then to Harrison (especially on the weekend when the 33rd stops at Hoboken). Go ahead and let me know how many places you can find on Google Maps which are faster to RBA from Manhattan/Queens/Brooklyn/Bronx.

    CitiField is a bit farther than Yankee Stadium but still faster for most people in the NY metro area – again due to subways being more convenient than the PATH.

    Bottom line is that soccer does not have the following the other sports have yet. Nowhere near it. And when people have a LOT of other options available to them which are MUCH more convenient than RBA is there will be a lot of no-shows from people who decide to do something else last minute.

    Hell, even the Yankees only had 20 sellout games out of 81 last year for all their popularity. Just google “yankees sellout crowd stats” for that info.

    My point is we need to allow soccer to grow in an already sports mature environment. The fact that RBA even sells out sometimes (tickets sold) is already great news. The fact that another SSS is being built is great news.

    There are so many positive things to focus on in the league right now we should be doing that.

  54. theraccoun says:

    An inferiority complex? Are you serious? He’s the COMMISSIONER OF THE LEAGUE, it’s his job to make the league as successful as possible.

  55. Joamiq says:

    Up and down most of the West side of the island, as well as straight through the heart of Brooklyn and out into Queens, you’re usually close to an A/C/E, which deposits you at the WTC for the PATH pretty easily. If you’re on the East side, you just take the 4/5/6 down and walk like 3 minutes to the PATH station at WTC. The PATH is no tougher to deal with than any subway line. You transfer to it as you would anytime you have to switch lines, and it’s a simple 20 minute ride from WTC to Harrison. You have to go pretty far out into the outer reaches of the outer boroughs to find places in the city that are well over an hour away from RBA. I just don’t buy travel as an excuse not to go out to RBA.

  56. H2Oman says:

    Well… it has something to do with the fact that New York is one of the media, financial hubs of the world, w/ a huge market, lots of money and potential for enormous exposure. A successful, top flight club there could well propel MLS forward to another level and attract star talent in their prime. Sports, particularly soccer are international. MLS is NOT competing against MLB and the NFL, they are competing against Serie A, La Liga, the EPL. Revenue does not come from tickets, it comes from TV contracts and corporate sponsors. It’s not “fair”, but a pro league is a business and about the bottom line. Harsh reality, a town like Charlotte will never offer what NY does. Do you think Jeremy Lin would be getting anywhere near the exposure if he was playing on the Bobcats? No way. Believe me, the NBA is loving that and the MLS wants similar play. Rightly so..

  57. Joamiq says:

    That’s not true at all. I went from the city to RBA all the time, and in my experience most of the people hanging out in the bars in Newark pre and post game live and work in NYC.

  58. rico says:

    I am pretty sure the DP rule is in effect for all MLS teams, so explain how the rule gives anyone an unfair advantage. Folks throwing around the term Gerber Boy shouldn’t come across so whiney… it comes across a bit ludicrous.

  59. fischy says:

    I don’t think “TV markets” figures too much into MLS’ thinking — at least, not now. The league gets pretty meager ratings even in the markets it’s in. For now, most teams will sink or swim based on crowds and the merchandise they sell. The Galaxy stands out as an exception, but don’t expect their deal to set a trend.

    The league is looking for markets that will support a team. In the long run, the league might want to focus on media penetration — and networks are concerned with penetration as much as they are with ratings — but low ratings will keep the league from penning any lucrative network deals for years to come.

  60. fischy says:

    I do, The success of the Sounders moved Portland and Vancouver to the head of the line, but those cities were not there beforee.

  61. fischy says:

    This.

  62. fischy says:

    This.

  63. fischy says:

    Bankrupting the city? Not gonna happen, and not just because NYC could afford to build a stadium. Not gonna happen because most of it will be privately financed. The city might have to chip in with some infrastructure improvements.

  64. fischy says:

    “The gerber boy’ — haha, I get it. There’s something there to get, right?

  65. fischy says:

    Thing about Minnesota is every sports league has had some trouble there, and every team has either left or threatened to at some point. Doesn’t bode well.

  66. Gnarls says:

    Never had a problem with Fox Sports West showing both LA and Shitvas games, but sometimes Fox Sports West shows one while Prime Ticket shows another.

  67. Lisa NYC says:

    Absolutely ridiculous! I guess you’ve never taken the crowded PATH trains headed back to Manhattan after the games. Fans transfer at WTC to go to Brooklyn and transfer at 34th to go to Long Island & the Bronx with Manhattan stops in between. I don’t doubt that the Red Bulls have alot of NJ fans, but their fans are also from NY.

    Also, since we agree that Manhattan will not get a stadium, I don’t think Queens is any better than Harrison. I’ve been stuck on the 7 running local after a Mets game and after a US Open match. It takes an hour just get to 42nd Street and then I still have to transfer to get home. RBA is much closer and easier for me and I am a non-driving, subway/Path riding New Yorker.

  68. RAMONE says:

    Don’t forget, Portland and Vancouver were awarded MLS franchises before the Flounders ever played a single MLS game.

    The only real reason S#ittle was first was they had the ownership group together first. The efforts to bring MLS to Portland and Vancouver started in about 2007 and were rewarded with expansion MLS teams in March 2009. Yes, MLS knew what the Flounder season ticket sales were which certainly didn’t hurt Portland and Vancouver’s bids, nor did the fact that Portland and Vancouver had regularly outdrawn the Flounders at the USL level (heck Portland outdrew many MLS teams when they were USL, Vancouver was limited by playing in their 6000 seat USL stadium).

    Sounder fans love to try to revise history and tell us that the Timbers and Whitecaps wouldn’t be in MLS if not for them which is only slightly true. Absolutely it helped push those teams over the top, but the real issue is that MLS finally started not worrying about soccer moms and size of TV market (assuming those alone would fill seats) and started looking at markets where the soccer was most important and there was a true passion about the current local team with previous successful minor league teams (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and Montreal). There really are no more minor league success stories like those 4 left now, though I think the league would take a long look at any city anywhere who started getting 10-15k fans showing up regularly for USL/NASL games (Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, St. Louis, New Orleans, whatever). The problem is most of those cities get as little as 1K fans out for minor league soccer. Other cities like Rochester historically get 5-8k out, but there is a limit to that market too if you suddenly expect them to triple or quadruple attendance (you’d have a Columbus light).

    That is what worries me about this whole second team in NY issue. It is old MLS thinking – that if we go to a population center with a lot of immigrants they will, by default, become fans. I think resurrection of Cosmos may hurt RBNY (who really blew it by building their stadium where they did and create a situation where they become the Nets / Clippers (2012 excepted) of MLS and fans stop going to their games.

  69. RAMONE says:

    +1

    The truth is that most Americans don’t follow soccer at all. The Northwest is different. People here fell in love with it in the 70s with their NASL teams and significant rivalries were born. Portland, Seattle and Vancouver were all on the list as potential founding MLS cities, but none had ownership groups wanting to take a chance on MLS nor did they fit the initial MLS profile (big city, lots of soccer moms) so they went overlooked for a decade plus. Seattle finally got an ownership group together and took the plunge. For that, I (gagging as I type here) applaud them and commend them for their success … it helped to get MLS to pay attention to Vancouver and Portland’s bids, but there was a whole lot of other hard work that both of those cities accomplished on their own behalves which had nothing at all to do with Seattle.

    The Northwest is also a funny place. As successful as those three teams are, there are a bunch of people who were initially mad because AAA baseball had to relocate from Portland and that NBA basketball failed in Seattle who twist it all to blame soccer. These are people who will never (out of principled spite) attend a Sounder or Timber game and will spout off at every possible moment about how terrible it is that people go to these games but they can’t see their sport of choice (because there isn’t the broad support, but they want to blame soccer fans rather than point fingers squarely at basketball or baseball fans / non-sports fans who are the reasons those teams failed and moved).

  70. Robin says:

    Shall I be the one that makes the meme.

    link to quickmeme.com

  71. rico says:

    Soccer in Minnesota… in March. OOOOooooff.

  72. Dustyn says:

    Ownership is far more important than location. You can make an MLS team work in just about any major city given a motivated and solid ownership group. Just look at the difference in KC between HSG and OnGoal ownership. Same market, completely different results.

  73. Ossington Mental Youth says:

    bwahahaha teh crew needs help. nobody likes them

  74. Jack says:

    There’s no way MLS will ever go to the international schedule, Garber must be talking about being off on more FIFA dates. Could you imagine playing a game in front of 20 people, 0 degree weather, Columbus in Feb?

  75. Neal says:

    “Stop with the pro/rel nonsense!”

    Thank you. So tired of this getting mentioned…