Garber gives latest expansion update, hints at possibility of growth beyond 24 teams

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Photo by Bill Barrett/ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

Expansion was such an afterthought following the announcement that MLS bought Chivas USA on Thursday that league commissioner Don Garber had to subtly remind reporters that they could ask about the topic during a conference call.

What Garber said on the subject when finally asked was revealing.

The commissioner had already said MLS plans to reach 24 teams by the end of the decade. The league will stand at 21 teams next year with the additions of New York City FC and Orlando City, and David Beckham’s Miami franchise would be the 22nd club if and when a stadium deal is reached.

After that, Atlanta seems like the front-runner for one of the two remaining openings.

“We continue to work and make progress in Atlanta and we are bullish on that market,” said Garber. “We’ll continue to work hopefully with the (National Football League’s) Falcons and (owner) Arthur Blank, seeing if we can get something finalized in Atlanta.”

Minneapolis is another potential market. Local NASL club Minnesota United FC has made some positive noise in recent months, and Garber said he believes it could make the jump to MLS if fans continue to show support.

Securing a stadium is paramount to the city’s chances of getting an expansion team.

“We have been working hard with a potential ownership group in Minneapolis and that opportunity is one that we’re excited about as we believe we need more teams in the Midwest,” said Garber. “I think if Minneapolis is a market that can continue to show the support that they’ve had for the NASL club and if we’re continuing to make progress on a number of different stadium opportunities, there’s a real opportunity there, and we really have a lot of respect and admiration for the ownership group.”

While MLS could stop at 24 teams, it seems more likely that the league will continue to grow, albeit at a much slower pace than in recent years. Garber mentioned discussions and interest from multiple cities, including San Diego and San Antonio.

“There are some activities going on in northern California,” said Garber. “There have been some discussions in southern California, in San Diego. There are lots and lots of opportunities that we’ve looked at in Texas. As you know, we’ve been down in San Antonio recently.

“I think the league is poised for more teams in time. But we’re going to be careful about ensuring that we get them into the league at the right time and when the league can handle it from a player perspective and from a resource perspective.”

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What do you make of Garber’s comments? Like the idea of Atlanta and Minneapolis landing expansion teams? How big do you see MLS being when things are all said and done?

Share your thoughts below.

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177 Responses to Garber gives latest expansion update, hints at possibility of growth beyond 24 teams

  1. The Imperative Voice says:

    “We’re going to be less careful about whether some of these teams will be actually attended.” (Miami, Minnesota, Atlanta….maybe Orlando….)

    • Kirielson says:

      Orlando has already proven themselves.

      The others, not so much.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        I’m somewhat concerned about whether Orlando “scales up” like a bigger city — ie, latent demand for higher quallity soccer piles atop the people who were die hard enough to watch the minors. Seattle, for example.

        They have had pretty good minors attendance the past two years (before that, not so much).

        • Adam says:

          Orlando didnt have a team before that so the only thing you can go on is the attendance since 2012 and it has been fantastic!

          • Rory Miller says:

            First, we know Orlando was fudging the numbers on the attendance all along. That’s ok, everyone does it a bit but even if we just use their best league match attendence of 10,000 as their new average, that would make them the second worst attended team in MLS, only better than Chivas USA.

            I’m not saying the crowds won’t grow by jumping to MLS, but it isn’t for sure yet that they can get them to a solid 12,000 year in, year-out.

            • How do we know that Orlando was fudging the numbers, especially beyond the normal things?

            • Leo says:

              to be fair, and I say this as Timbers Army since 08 or so, Portland had some decent crowds but before MLS it averaged 10-12k people. Obviously look at us now with a consistently sold out stadium and 10k+ season ticket waiting list. Or look at Seattle who was getting half of what we did in USL and now averaging double. It can be done with the right place.

          • Victor the Crab says:

            Orlando =/= Portland

        • solles says:

          haha there are many word to use for the sounders support when they ere in USL buy die-hard is really not one of them. MLS is the only thing that brought fickle seattlites out to watch that team in any significant numbers. San Antonio draws much better now than Seattle ever did in USL.

          • Rory Miller says:

            Maybe we should note that Seattle lost the NBA team as the Sounders just started. Scorned exes love to show how much they love their new girlfriend.

      • MLSsnob says:

        Don worry, I’m from miami and me and a couple buddies will go to the miami games so no need to worry.

    • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

      Where did Garber say that?..

    • drew11 says:

      Completely wrong.

      Orlando had 20,000 for their last match. MLS isn’t worried about their support. LOL.

      Minnesota averaged over 30,000 several years during the old school NASL days. The MLS template for Minnesota is Seattle. Very similar markets culture and economics wise. A downtown SSS backed by a billionaire owner and the Twins would rock MSP.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        For the “USL Pro Final?” How is that representative? The two rounds before that were in the 8K range. Will people show up to watch Chivas USA on a weekday or a midday game in summer…

        • mr. ferley says:

          “Will people show up to watch Orlando City play Chivas USA on a weekday or a midday game in summer…”

          Nope, guaranteed nobody will show up to that match.

        • drew11 says:

          That was 20k for a D3 championship match in the US. Nothing comparable in the history of US Soccer.

          Mark Abbott thinks Orlando will have the best stadium location in MLS. They will do just fine with midweek games. No better or worse than NYRB or the Revs. MLS support in Orlando is a non issue, really. Find something else to worry about.

        • Rory Miller says:

          From Orlando Sentinel:

          On Aug. 11, the club announced a record 10,697 fans at the Florida Citrus Bowl. In fact, just 4,004 people had their tickets scanned as they passed through the gates, according to turnstile counts tallied by the city, which owns and operates the venue. The team announced an attendance of 8,912 at the USL Pro semi-final match Friday. The turnstile count was 6,731.

          I’m just saying that it isn’t the sure-fire success we’ve been lead to believe Orlando will be. We will only find out about the third year or so if Orlando is a success.

          • 407 says:

            That Sentinel report has been debunked repeatedly. It’s point was “tickets scanned” and turnstiles in only one of several entry points to OC events. The day that story appeared there was a wave of anecdotal stories about people attending games all season who had their tickets ripped instead of scanned by the same persons holding the scanners, and all of it pointed to the turnstile counts being nothing less than a joke. The bigger joke was that a reasonably credible daily paper like the Orlando Sentinel actually published the story.

            You’re correct, OC like any sports team gives out some tickets and actual attendance of butts in seats includes both tickets sold and given away, all under the nebulous heading of “tickets distributed.” But the attendance for the whole final third of the season up through and including the championship event was large and spiking, over and above the solid attendance throughout the season. The two playoff games were comfortably in excess of 10,000, before the one-off championship night of just less than 21,000.

            You’re also right, OC will have to prove itself and will have to have the ramp-up attendance expansion that is expected to follow once the MLS threshold is passed. But the old Sentinel story is a non-issue and not worth wasting time on. The owners have made this investment on very sound ground. This new MLS club will fill in the rest of the annual sports calendar during the Orlando Magic’s offseason, and it has a seriously hungry-for-soccer audience ready to make it explode. Of course that doesn’t guarantee sellouts, but the probability is quite high that OC will do great it’s first few years, and continue growing from there.

            Bottom line, you have to see it to believe it. It just works.

          • tw says:

            You realize that this is a minor league soccer team, right? Very impressive and comparable to Portland/Seattle before they joined MLS. Another advantage in Orlando is not having a MLB team to compete with for those summer entertainment dollars. Orlando also has great demographics with a young, growing population. I think they’ll do just fine.

          • Dirk McQuigley says:

            Most professional sports teams base attendance on the total number of tickets SOLD rather than actual attendance. And why shouldn’t they count no shows? The team already made the money regardless of whether those tickets are scanned or ripped upon entry into the stadium.

            This is not a per se defense of Orlando, but simply a fact as to how professional sports operate in the real world and not what detractors think.

      • IndyElevenFan says:

        Unfortunately, that’s not the plan in Minneapolis. M-United is proposing sharing the new Vikings stadium…..THAT’S INDOORS.

    • Rory Miller says:

      Going by TV Markets (which is basically another way of saying Population within decent drive), there are some obvious choices..

      8th largest market in US is Atlanta
      11th is Detroit
      12th Phoenix
      13 Tampa-St Pete
      15 Minneapolis
      17 Cleveland
      20 Sacramento
      21 St Louis
      23 Pittsburgh
      24 Charlotte
      25 Indianapolis

      By the way, Kansas city is 31, columbus 32,Salt Lake 33, San Antonio 37,

      • tw says:

        Exactly – growing the TV audience is cleary the most important factor going forward. Atlanta has always been a no-brainer and just a matter of time in the same way Philly was. The other markets I’m not so sure about: Several of those cities listed will be stagnant or shrinking in terms of population.

    • Reid Davis says:

      *hole on the map

    • aristotleTimVickery says:

      when its all said and done, Garber/MLS wont go beyond 22 American cities. Thats the most Fifa has allowed, and the US would like to hose another world cup so they wont run afoul of rules on size of 1st division domestic leagues

      • Bobb says:

        There are no such rules, you are a liar and making things up with no evidence.

        • Turgid Jacobian says:

          So, that’s a bit excessive. There really isn’t a rule, but there have been many statements by FIFA leadership that 20 is the right number for most top flight leagues.

          I would, however, quickly add that: they don’t really care how you structure your league or your competition, provided the money is there, and you don’t play TOO many games in league + league cup: 20 is about the right number because that gets you ~45 games in league + league cup over a 10-11 month season.

          So, if MLS were structured right and making the right people rich, it would be JUST FINE to have 32 teams.

      • Turgid Jacobian says:

        “US would like to hose another world cup”
        We’ve already been hosed enough, thanks ;)

    • soccerhorn says:

      You forgot NYCFC. Considering NYRB only fills half it’s stadium each week, what’s to think the other guys will do any better?

  2. Sam says:

    Blank is a douche if he doesn’t buy the Silverbacks and include their fans in this project. If he ignores them I hope they stick around in NASL, build a real SSS with a grass pitch and continue to be a thorn in his side for years to come.

  3. Iggster says:

    Blank is a dillweed if he doesn’t buy the Silverbacks and include their fans in this project. If he ignores them I hope they stick around in NASL, build a real SSS with a grass pitch and continue to be a thorn in his side for years to come.

  4. MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

    Atlanta = Revs 2.0

    • drew11 says:

      Exactly. But MLS wants the TV market and access to the large number of corp HQ’s in ATL

    • Artie says:

      People in Atlanta have consistently proven they don’t care about pro sports.

      The Hawks have not been in the top half of the NBA in attendance during this century. The Braves’ highest finish since 2001 (by percentage, given wildly different ballpark sizes) is 14th. ESPN’s football numbers only go back to 2005, and while the NFL is a little wonky because everyone is more or less required to sell out every game, the Falcons have never been above 17 is attendance percentage. The Thrashers had to move.

      And remember, most of these teams have been pretty good, with consistent division titles and playoff trips.

      But, by all means, put an expansion soccer team there.

      • Excellency says:

        My sentiments exactly. Personally, I would prefer 2 nd division teams in places like CoSprings, Minnesota, Omaha, San Antonio and have promotion/relegation dangled as a carrot-stick.

        Instead we are going to dead places like Atlanta where there is already too much competition for the sports dollar with lousy results.

        • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

          Garber wants TV deals even at the expense of bad supported teams.

          • Rory Miller says:

            I’d like a regional team for my entire fourth of the country which is completely ignored and won’t be much better when the “way down in Florida” teams come into the league. No reason Atlanta can’t draw support from the multiple states near it without a team, much the same way the Braves were once (a long time ago) the entire South’s team.

            • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

              …..yawn….the same could be said for all the poorly supported franchises in Atl..

            • Shyam says:

              The “neglected” fourth of the country? How about you guys just stay out of everybody’s face until you got the juice to get a team where a stadium won’t just be a bunch of empty chairs.

      • quozzel says:

        Soccer is different. Atlanta is one giant, sprawling burb.

        The amount of youth soccer being played there is mind-boggling. There’s a grassroots level of support for soccer there in the ATL that blows away the grassroots support any other sport has there. There’s also a huge pool of expats as well as a very large and growing latin population.

        People who are expecting the Same Ole Same Ole with Atlanta might be surprised. IF they get a good, active ownership group in there, they might do much better than anyone suspects.

        • Jim says:

          Youth soccer participation is meaningless. So is expat community, and latino population. Every failed MLS franchise and every historically underperforming MLS franchise had ALL of those advantages. In fact, with the exception of Tampa they’ve all had better numbers in those areas.

          • RAMONE says:

            +eleventy billion

            If we have learned anything with the MLS experiment it is that children and soccer mom’s and calling yourself a “hotbed” doesn’t get it done for a professional team. Very few in those demographics will buy season tickets, let alone become passionate supporters. The real demographic is the very real group of 20-40 (an age bracket that moves up or down a little depending on location – it is probably 50 in the Northwest, closer to 30 in other locations) who grew up playing soccer and may have never done so at a high level, still know and have passion for the game. Many of these are women, but there are larger numbers of men. They are the ones who will buy season tix year after year after year. They are the ones who will fall in love with their team and watch every away game on TV (if not travel to a couple a year if they can). Soccer moms will come along for the ride as will the soccer kids – they will become the next generation of season ticket buyers, but it isn’t a minivan full of kids coming to 2-3 games a year that MLS needs, it is 30 year old guy/girl/couple who are incredibly passionate about their MLS team (not youth soccer) that builds a solid fanbase.

            • Turgid Jacobian says:

              TV. Only TV matters to top tier sports.

              Top tier fans are a luxury, not a necessity. If your league is an effective advertising platform, you can have empty stands.

              • RAMONE says:

                TV money matters, no question – but any team who has Chivas like attendance is also going to have poor TV numbers and won’t get decent TV contracts. It really doesn’t matter what league it is, if you only fill 20% of your stadium that means the fans have lost interest and your team isn’t long for your city (at the very least is about to have a major overhaul of some sort such as selling to a new owner, etc.).

                “Only TV matters” is an overstatement. TV is really money, pure and simple. The massive expansion of televised sports though is really only 35 years old, and the saturation is really only 15-20 years old. Before that even the “big” sports had comparatively fairly limited TV exposure (I well remember not being able to watch NBA or NFL games because they were not televised). Those leagues survived less TV because they grew fan bases who cared. The larger / broader your fan base that cares the more will watch on TV and the better TV contracts you will get.

                And the same point stands regarding soccer moms and youth soccer – they are not planning their schedule around any sporting event except for the youth soccer games. They are not watching on TV. I realize I am running the risk of sounding tremendously sexist here, but men watch most televised sports and younger men are much more likely to gravitate toward soccer because they have played and watched it (not because their kids play or their wife drives the soccer carpool). This is MLS’ target audience, TV or at games.

  5. Jacknut says:

    We need MLS teams in Mexico City and London.

    • Reboot says:

      Help expand the “soccer” brand.

    • aristotleTimVickery says:

      actually, Mexicali wouldnt be bad. I’d like to see an NASL team there. So Mexicali is pretty much a baseball town, but hey maybe footie can work like it has in Tijuana. I dont think the mexican federation about MLS in mexicali. Their reaction would probably be something along the lines of “hell, mexicali wants to be in the US anyway”. Mexicali has around 1mil folks and it has the highest per capita income of any mexican city.

    • Mooncusser says:

      Why not? We have them in Canada.

  6. Becks says:

    And NYCFC will play…where again? How about DC United? How’s their stadium coming along???

  7. g-dub says:

    We should now be thinking of an eventual ‘final’ MLS like the other major North American sports leagues. (Not a Euro or SA league model.) This is ‘merica and Garber comes from the NFL mold. So…

    NFL: 32 teams
    NBA: 30 teams
    MLB: 30 teams
    NHL: 30 teams

    This is where we’re headed eventually. About 30 teams. The economics are tested for those leagues and will hold true for a mature MLS.

    • wandmdave says:

      I’m hoping for 32 teams split into East and West that only play within their conference until the playoffs. Helps with distance problems, makes supporter shield meaningful (intraconference champ), makes round robin play for all 16 teams in conference possible despite shortened season, keeps playoffs and allows it to mean something different than supporter shield (interconference champ).

      That would be awesome imho.

      • wandmdave says:

        CONCACAF Champions League berth allocation has already be changed to support something like that as well.

      • Rory Miller says:

        Expansion fees are still the biggest income generator for MLS. So until enough teams are making profits you can expect we will gladly be taking $100 Million checks every couple years.

    • FulhamDC says:

      Many NHL and NBA teams lose money, they need contraction but won’t do it. 30 is too many teams for those leagues, and 30 is too many for MLS. Lets get the teams in the league and about to enter on solid footing first.

      • RAMONE says:

        The economics of NBA and NHL are vastly different than MLS though. Tickets are much pricier in those leagues as are players. Minimum salary in NBA for a rookie is DP money — $500k. Average NBA salary is $5.2M a year (i.e. Dempsey, Bradley, Henry type money). A mediocre year on the income side due to injuries, free agent losses, retirements – just the general rebuilding process that most clubs go through every 5-10 years is going to probably leave you unprofitable. Add to that guaranteed contracts with many teams still paying players who retired 2-3 years ago and payroll expense becomes bloated. There are NBA teams who are fairly successful and I don’t think anyone would argue merit contraction who are currently not making money.

        NHL similarly has an average salary of about $2.5M x 23 players. There is a lot of overhead in player salary and a bad year on the income side and you are hosed.

        Honestly, it is one of the things I like about MLS. It is accessible (ticket prices are reasonable) and most players make salaries which have a basis that most fans can wrap their heads around … very few fans can relate to making $500k a year as a starting salary at anything, let alone several million.

        I agree with the solid footing part and that 30 is probably way too many, but all comparisons with NHL, NFL, NBA or MLB from a balance sheet perspective are orders of magnitude off.

    • beto says:

      +1 he won’t say it yet but that’s clearly where Garber wants to go…

      3 divisions of 10 or 2 divisions of 15 makes sense.

  8. The Imperative Voice says:

    I don’t understand why San Antonio isn’t much higher on the list. They already have a minor league team, had a nearly 10K attendance season, and are decently well attended still. They are in a fairly large city and the demographics are probably like Houston in terms of fanbase. I think they would scale up because they host international games. They have a finished SSS they can expand, and thus it’s not some NFL tagalong project where we have to worry we are being used to sell a stadium that’s less than ideal for soccer, and without many soccer fans to show up.

    NYC2 to me is fine, and I know we promised Beckham. But San Antonio to me is like “Montreal Lite,” a pre-packaged setup that could be easily elevated and expanded. They might not be the largest crowds but I think it would be a solid MLS city, least as good as Dallas.

    • Paul says:

      San Antonio is probably not up there because there are already 2 Texas teams. Yeah, everything is bigger in Texas, but there are other underserved areas in the country that are hungry for professional soccer that could use a team.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        I don’t understand the logic, if the aim is success as opposed to politics. The Cascadia teams are all fairly well attended and none of them is seen as squeezing out the others. The Texas teams would be in the same state but they are 200 miles apart and not parasitic of each other. The Scorpions already exist alongside the others. Houston and Dallas have a great rivalry played at a high pitch.

        I know there is a set of people who think we need teams from the south but I think that’s people with EPL or NFL on the brain as opposed to people looking at soccer cities. I think we need a healthy league as opposed to perfect regional balance.

      • H-town says:

        You don’t understand Texas obviously Pete…

        San Antonio is further away from Houston and Dallas than NYRB to the Union or the Revs or DC. That is not including NYCFC. That is five teams in the same geographical area and the San Antonio, Houston, Dallas triangle.

        Conclusion, It would be an easy decision to complete the trifecta in Texas. Those three cities are huge rivals, and it would be good for soccer in the US.

        • Rory Miller says:

          I don’t see why we need to jump down to the 37th largest Media market (San Antonio) while the 8th largest Media market (Atlanta) is ignored.

          • islandofmind says:

            Atlanta has not been ignored.
            San Antonio would directly increase the value of two other MLS teams and more fully tap the potential of one of the most populous states in the country. That’s well worth the attention even if SA might not get that kind of love if they were more remotely located. Here’s a kicker: put teams in SA AND Austin! The fur would fly just about every weekend.

          • The Imperative Voice says:

            San Antonio is a bigger city with more soccer fans — I mean, like, demonstrable, check the attendances. As a result, while one is a bigger “TV market” the other is probably primed for better “ratings,” ie, more people actually watching.

        • chuck says:

          San Antonio looks like plan B should no one in Cali gets Chivas USA off MLS

        • Northzax says:

          Yeah, but the ny-philly-dc corridor has forty million people in it. Compared to 25m in all of Texas.

    • Ted says:

      I wouldn’t count them out. Because Texas — like Cali and NYC and Miami — is overrated by the media and everyone who lives there, I’m sure MLS is looking at other teams to base there.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        Last season Houston drew just short of 20K for its sweatbox. Dallas drew over 15K for the pizza oven. San Antonio has drawn just shy of 10K in one season and high five figures since, for minor league soccer. Heck, the former Austin Aztex (moved to Orlando then “promoted” …. boy did that move pay off) drew as well as some of the teams people want to elevate.

        California also has attended Chivas USA well, just not lately.

        NYC2, that might be interesting how that plays out. The old Metrostars used to be a boondoggle. It’ll be interesting to see how well the metro area supports things once there’s a Jersey and a City team to support.

        Miami I think is a train wreck waiting to happen. No land, no stadium, handed him the franchise publicly but rumors suggest it could be years to bring the team to the field. Fusion history, Miami FC history, on and on.

      • MLS_Soccer_Talker says:

        No ted. Youre overrated

    • Reid Davis says:

      Ah, now I get your agenda. I’m going to ignore everything you say now. Enjoy those Scorpions matches.

      • islandofmind says:

        You figure he’s like that mouse from “Pinky and the Brain”, plotting to take over the world?
        I didn’t notice his evil agenda until you pointed it out! I feel much safer now.

  9. Brian Hall says:

    First comes over expansion to 30 teams, then you expand the playoffs to include half the league; rendering the regular season meaningless. The expansion and salary cap means we don’t have any teams full of stars. If MLS wants to improve TV ratings and appeal to the casual fan they need to filed some Galactico type teams. Instead it looks like they are going down the path of The NHL and taking the short term cash of expansion fees at the expense of long term success.

    • Jason Toon says:

      No, the way to build the “casual fan” base is to give them a local team to support. That’s why MLS attendance and TV ratings have gone way up, not down, as the league has expanded. Casual American soccer fans are never going to start following MLS because some “Galactico type team” is playing for a city 1,000 miles away.

      If you think MLS has expanded too fast, tell me which of the recent expansion teams (Toronto, Seattle, Philly, Montreal, Portland, Vancouver) you think was a mistake and why.

      • xyz says:

        I think it’s clear by the amount of fans say Barcelona or Real Madrid have, that people are fickle and go for a winning team. So having a Galactico team would in fact bring in the casual soccer fan as opposed to a bunch of no namers simply because they play so close to home. Also I remember reading about tv ratings being below that of the WNBA, so even if it has grown it is still low.

        • Lost in Space says:

          Galactico didn’t work for the League back in the day with the Cosmos if you recall….as the league folded. MLS is learning from the mistakes of the past & present (europe teams in debt). They are trying to keep expense low while they improve the brand. In the next player union the salary cap will be raised, DP’s will be expanded, and youth development will be required.
          Learn to walk before running is the idea here.

      • Eurosnob says:

        If the goal is to grow soccer by giving the fans a local team to support, MLS nees to scrap its business model and introduce promotion/relegation system that works quite well outside the US. This way we won’t need to debate which particular locality is worthy of the top division team and which one is not- they would have an opportunity to prove that they belong on the field. Hopefully, the USSF will figure it out at some point and mandate an open system with promotion and relegation to the top division.

        • Victor the Crab says:

          Won’t happen, moron!

          There’s too much competition for the sports dollar in the United States and Canada. And soccer is low on the totem poll as it pertains to interest. Plus, network television isn’t going to fork over millions just to risk losing a New York and Los Angeles to relegation for a Rocester and Charleston.

          Stop inserting your wet dream of soccer in North America being like Europe and get help for your drug abuse problem.

      • BamaMan says:

        MLS attendance is flat as are TV ratings.

    • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

      He is just whining Jason you don’t need to argue logically.

  10. Darwin says:

    Fort Worth Vaqueros FC!!

  11. Mike says:

    Raleigh/Durham would be great. Upgrade the Railhawks franchise and pull on the support for UNC/Duke/NC State soccer. Good fans in this area and soccer is very popular

  12. Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

    The bonus of having a league where anyone can win it any year is that you don’t have to stop at 18-24 teams. You can have way more than that and MLS will. Anyone with half a brain knew they wouldn’t stop at 24…..if they can make more money at 30 they will….and they can.

    The Euro leagues have to artificially eliminate most of the teams from winning, because they never will anyway and their leagues would be more of a competitive joke if they included them. I hope that MLS goes to 40 teams. National TV money will be diluted at that point, so I can understand someone wanting less teams and more quality, but I think most of the real fans support and love US soccer as it is right now and they will surely enjoy US soccer 10-20 years from now.

    • slowleftarm says:

      Why not 500 teams? Why have any stopping point? Every single town and city in the country could have a team and have it play in MLS because hey this is America and for some reason the pro/rel model that works everywhere else on Earth can’t work here. So let’s just expand and expand and have every one of those teams in MLS. That should work.

      • Nate Dollars says:

        now now, slowleftarm, you’re disagreeing again. and that means you’re whining.

      • Jee says:

        You gone lunatic, bro

      • wandmdave says:

        If you want to go with a straight European model then we need one league for each state and 1/4 of the teams in each of those leagues needs to come from one city. Only 2-4 teams can actually be competitive for the title per decade.

        Sounds great, sign me up!!!!

        • wandmdave says:

          Also those 2-4 major teams can go into major debt to buy players and get bailed out by the city to stay afloat.

        • Dirk McQuigley says:

          Right because futbol is just so popular in North Dakota and Alaska. They have state-based leagues in Brazil and attendance in most of them is terrible.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      I think we are nearing a crossover point in terms of suitability (aka economic sanity) and also when you reach a certain size I think fans of the weakest teams do start to take less seriously their chances. The NFL may be huge and have a sizeable postseason but fans of the Houston Texans still knew they were toast.

      I also think at a certain point for sporting reasons some sort of split, MLS East MLS West, MLS1 MLS2, becomes necessary for sporting reasons. Will owners and fans be as excited about becoming a second division team, if there is no pro-rel. The virtue of MLS at its present size and structure is the investment in a first division team is reliable.

  13. Michael says:

    That may be the cleanest shave ever photographed on the Don. Dude usually has a 5 o’clock shadow at 9:30 am.

  14. tga says:

    more expansion means more MLS…Minor League Soccer….more no name Latinos and more washed up Euros….and now more overrated Americans leaving Europe for a big payday…

    • The Amateur says:

      You know, when it comes down to it, that’s a pretty accurate summary of MLS and US Soccer in general. It’s just that Ives and other US soccer blogs are biased and make it sound like the MLS is a competent league.

      I’m a huge USMNT fan and I like the MLS, but we still have a long way to go to having a “top league” like Garber wants.

  15. NASL to el paso tx says:

    How about mls does an mls2, if nasl want to be delusional and not work with mls, well mls start mls2 by recruiting nasl teams and uslpro teams. Maybe by 2022 mls can have mls2 with 16 teams, with west and east conferences.
    Therefore, i think mls should target 30 teams, 15 in each conference but if mls does mls2, start a simple promotion n relegation system. Like someone mentioned before, have ONE SPOT in each conference for an mls2 team, in which they battle to stay in mls1, but mls1 teams don’t get relegated due to respect of creating the league.
    Its that simple and mls2 needs to happen since not every Market is going to make it to mls1.
    So i say, atlanta, san antonio come in and cities after 24 should be, sacramento, vegas, minnesota and cosmos and that hits 28 teams, and save 2 spots for promotion from mls2.
    Therefore, teams like nashville, st.louis, phoenix, okc, tampa bay, pittsburgh, fight for promotion in mls2 for mls1. :-) then mls3 is the farm league

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      I’d be cranky if they downgraded me to D2 with no pro/rel.

      I’d be less interested in buying a team if they were only offering D2 with no pro/rel. It would be somewhere between MLS now and minor league ownership.

      I also think MLS is neither rich enough nor willing to take on the financial exposure enough, right now, to actually own its minors. Galaxy II is your exception.

      • islandofmind says:

        The Galaxy can do that because they don’t have to field a team in a different market. They’ll use all the same facilities as the MLS team. Apart from some added travel and other player related expenses, I don’t see it as that big of a risk.
        I’m sure it costs more than an afiliation deal with another organization but the Galaxy can probably afford such a venture, especially because they probably see it as an investment in their brand in a market full of talent. Most other teams aren’t in a position to do this either in terms of market size or financially.

      • NASL to El Paso tx says:

        But remember, hopefully MLS would create MLS2 by mostly recruiting all NASL teams and even some UslPro teams.
        So let’s say MLS does 28 teams, which could be done easily and reserves TWO spots, one in each conference, west and east for promotion and relegation, which those teams would come from MLS2.
        NO MLS1 teams would be relegated, due to respect for the owners who helped the league grow.
        So practically MLS1 can have 30 teams, with reserving 2 spots for MLS2 teams, one in the west and other in east conference.
        Each MLS2 team in MLS1 would have a season to stay alive and it would be up the league how they want to fix the promotion method.
        Then if MLS would create an MLS network, you can show MLS2 games on that channel.
        It’s not rocket science, but NASL wants to grow as much possible in order to be bought out with a large amount of money from MLS.
        MLS1 would have 30 teams and MLS2 about 14 to 18 .

  16. FRANK says:

    I HOPE DON GRABBER DOESNT FIRE KLINNSMAN BEFORE THE WORLD CUP

  17. DecaturAtlien says:

    As an Atlanta resident, I don’t know that Atlanta will be the next Seattle or anything, but I think they will be average or better in attendance. For people not from this area, there is a big difference in pro sports attendace on the weekends vs the weekdays due to the layout of the city. Many people live in the burbs and the stadiums are downtown, which can be over an hour drive each way. The braves actually draw very, very well on weekends. Again, I don’t think they will be top attendance in the league but they will be at least average. Also, Atlanta is a huge market for the growth of the game in the US. Atlanta consistently has one of the highest number of pro athletes for the big three and a development academy for this area could bring in loads of athletes.

  18. Brain Guy says:

    “Securing a stadium is paramount to the city’s chances of getting an expansion team.”

    Unless the city in question is New York or Miami, of course.

    I’d love to see Garber’s master plan — assuming there is one — for expansion. Right now MLS just seems drunk on the notion (and quick dollars) of expansion. I’m pretty sure that even at 24, MLS will be bigger than any other important league in the world. Are we now proceeding on the NHL’s “more is better regardless of the consequences” model?

  19. Mike R says:

    Stop watering down the league!!!!

  20. Chris says:

    Dear Mr. Garber:

    How are things with the Chivas, NE, and DC markets? Any problems there? No? WELL THEN EXPAND AWAY!!!

    Sincerely,
    The fans of those markets.

  21. ThatKidNandez says:

    Expanision???? Bring promotion/relegation the NASL is starting to look promising this year. They give some MLS teams a run for their money in the US open cup.

  22. Brett says:

    What is the limit for teams before we seriously consider a two-or-three-division system? I think we need to introduce it early and give it a chance to flower. In time it won’t matter what the logo looks like or how the TV deals are worked. We need a FA like body in charge of the whole thing and make the US Open cup a bigger deal.

    • beachbum says:

      man, I just came here to write this! seriously. who knows if it’s on their minds or not but,

      considering all the teams, and other leagues, is it possible to have a two tiered league with relegation as an end game here?

      • islandofmind says:

        I would say no. Other leagues in the world came up from the grass roots. There were no multi-millionaires negociating stadium deals. Stadiums started small and grew with the team pay as you go style. Many continue growing as they always have. Top level pro sports are totally different in the US. Baseball had similar origins – but that’s long gone now. If you were an owner of an MLS team, what would you say if the league said we’re starting pro/rel and congratulations you won relegation, your investment is now worth $50 million less than you paid. What would you tell your investors? I’ll bet they weren’t contemplating that when they wrote the check.
        People are idealistic about leagues but what works elsewhere just doesn’t make sense here, you can’t re-write history. People can however, wish all they like.

      • Leo says:

        In short, no.

        In my opinion, European style promotion/relegation will never take root here:

        - The Charleston Battery are a perfect example of this. A small market team with an owner who is committed to fielding a fiscally sustainable, competitive product with strong community support. They could’ve played and competed in NASL, however, a decision was made to keep costs low by participating in a regional league, which keeps operating costs down. The Battery turned their backs on promotion and have flourished as a result.
        - The only countries with promotion/relegation facing the same geographic challenges as the United States would probably be Brazil, Russia and China. Brazil and China football leagues seem to share many characteristics, such as reasonably sized first and second divisions supported by state/regional league pyramids with teams actively seeking promotion.

        This equates to, from last year’s results in MLS, teams like Dallas, San Jose, Chicago, Philly, Columbus, Toronto and DC competing in a second division.

        I’m sorry to say it, but we’re not, as a country, ready for that.

        • drew11 says:

          Good stuff. The MLS-USL partnership is the way to go. All MLS clubs need to run a full D2 squad and then add in some locally owned USL clubs like the Battery. That gets you to 4 regional leagues playing at a reasonably high pro level with 10-15 clubs each. Then below that you could have a PDL style D3 for college kids, part timers, etc.

      • beachbum says:

        thanks to all for the thoughtful replies. nice discussion, appreciate it

    • Bobert says:

      we need pro/rel

      it’s how soccer is played everywhere else in the world. 99.9% of soccer leagues have pro/rel

      • Leo says:

        We don’t need pro/rel.

        “Because everybody else does it” ceases to be an acceptable response once you leave high school.

        • Brett says:

          Without a relegation system the league can only grow to a limited amount of clubs. That’s why we need it, not “because EPL”. Why do to think THEY developed the system?

          • Leo says:

            Bret, Fair Observer has been looking for you in some of the other threads.

            Anyway, to answer your question succinctly, “they” (as in EPL) have promotion/relegation because they have 160 clubs within that system in England and Wales that is about the size of the state of Michigan. They can handle it!!!

            Next question.

            • Brett says:

              How many clubs do we have in the US including all the semi-pro leagues? It’s definitely up there. It’s not as if MLS was the birth of soccer here. I just want a system where fans have a chance to see their hometown club have a storied run from small pond to top flight. We won’t ever replicate the passion or quality of a euro league without a multi-division system. We need to let go of this idea that only the MLS or first division matters. It stunts the growth of the sport.

              • Leo says:

                Brett, my original point was that there are “hometown” clubs (such as my own) that have openly stated that they have absolutely ZERO desire to step up into a first or second tier. The reason being that such a move would be detrimental to the financial health of the club.

                Some teams here in the good old US of A just don’t want promotion/relegation. Until you have a healthy, regionalized third and fourth tier, you and those of your ilk are just letting out gas.

          • islandofmind says:

            Yeah, 160 clubs all started about a hundred years ago by people with mostly pride on the line. Nobody was spending hundreds of millions on facilities let alone players. The claim that English leagues are comparable
            to US leagues only reveals that somebody out there is totally clueless about the facts of the history of the game.

            • Bobert says:

              pro/rel is not just used in England. It’s used everywhere in the industrial world. Even in third-world countries pro/rel is used.

              great ideas get copied. Bad ones don’t. Pro/rel is a great idea. Closed-franchise leagues is a bad idea.

              • Leo says:

                Are you capable of thinking for yourself, or have you just resigned yourself to repeating meaningless platitudes over and over until you find someone to nod along with you?

  23. Hef says:

    Austin >>>>>>>>>>>>>> San Antonio

  24. Rey Pygsterio says:

    Cosmos?

    • Ed says:

      Who are likely to get their stadium project rejected and disappear into the night for another 30 years.

      • El Paso tx says:

        Money talks, don’t count cosmos out, never son. Some rich head will save them from anything, if Miami is possible then cosmos will come to MLS sooner than later. But we need an MLS2, hopefully MLS does mls2 and takes over NASL and makes uslpro a farm league

  25. ThatKidNandez says:

    The south east needs more teams! Give Charlotte a team! Atlanta/Charlotte rivalry. Also Charlotte is hosting liverpool and Ac Milan. They also hosted the gold cup i remember it sold out.

  26. McQ says:

    NYFC is going to be a failure. All the money in the world (or Manchester) is not going to get people to go to the Bronx for a soccer match. Garber knows this. He pushed hard for a stadium in Queens where the fans are and can get to but the Mets (who had the rights to the parking lots) and the NIMBY groups killed it. This incidentally is exactly what the problem in Atlanta is. The Braves did a study and found that something like 70 percent + of their season ticket holders as well as the highest concentration of their “die hard” fans lived north of or in the northern part of ATL which made it difficult to get to thier games wwhich are played inr the southern part of Atlanta. its not that there are not fans in the city its that they aren’t near the team.

  27. One thing the article just barely touched on is that Garber is pushing for a franchise in Atlanta in their proposed new NFL stadium. So much for only expanding to franchises in soccer specific venues. This is starting to sound like a giant money grab by the MLS rather than sustainable growth.

    • islandofmind says:

      The stadium proposed for Atlanta is designed specifically to accommodate an MLS crowd. The roof lowers, reducing the cavernous volume to more intimate dimensions and allowing for big crowds when needed.
      Soccer specific stadiums are necessary where existing facilities are not workable – either from a design perspective or financially – but where these issues don’t arise it makes sense to partner with the NFL.
      It’s easy to say that every team should have their own building, it’s quite another matter to pull together $200 million to actually build it.
      In Atlanta, both teams would be owned by Mr. Blank – how does it make sense for him to build a second brand new stadium for a soccer team? That would be a money grab for sure.

  28. BamaMan says:

    I don’t think MLS is going to make it another 20 years without some radical changes. Maybe ESPN will force those changes now that they have a stake in the league’s success. Right now, the league is overly reliant on expansion fees. Look at the shirt sponsorships – a huge percentage of the league’s teams have pyramid schemes as their shirt sponsors. Attendance is flat. TV ratings are flat, locally and nationally. The league has just been forced to purchase a team (never a good sign). All this happening at the same time that MLS clubs are radically overpaying for USMNT and other international players. Now, we have our league commissioner announcing expansion to cities that don’t even have stadium deals.

    Maybe ESPN is going to force some changes to make MLS a legit league that competes with the EPL in American tv ratings. Or maybe they’re just betting on the appeal of international soccer continuing to grow and MLS rights are the price they have to pay. But, if some changes aren’t made, I think a time is coming soon when the clubs that can make money on their own (Seattle, Portland, Sporting KC, a few others) get tired of subsidizing those who can’t.

    • islandofmind says:

      Almost nothing you’ve said here stands up to scrutiny.
      If you just want to make over-the-top comments then fine, but if you want to be seen as a credible you can start by putting some thought into it.

  29. Bobert says:

    if MLS thinks they can get American soccer fans to support a league that refuses to adopt a promotion/relegation system like the rest of the world, then they really are as dumb as we think they are.

    Pro/rel couldn’t be implemented tomorrow, or even five years from now. But it should be in the long term plans of MLS and USSF. Without it, soccer leagues just that aren’t fun to watch. Pro/rel is the best structure for the sport of soccer? How do we know this? IT IS USED EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD. It started in one country (England) and spread out throughout the world. What does this tell us? It’s a great format. Great ideas are copied. Bad ones aren’t.

    • Lars says:

      I 100% agree. Copying NHL would be stupid.

    • Supa says:

      US Soccer is based on C.R.E.A.M. (cash rules everything around me) why give away something worth $100 million for free? Or for what happens on the pitch? Teams are in line to give MLS $$$$ and people are talking about pro/reg? We can’t get a good TV rating for the Championship match, but people are going to watch the worst two teams play?

  30. Soccer boy Texas says:

    What’s so hard about mls having 26 or 28 or 30 teams. MLS can easily go after those crazy soccer markets, and I see 26 28 teams easily with 2 conferences.
    How about mls starts mls2, if nasal don’t want to be division 2 then mls should start mls2 by raiding nasl and some of UslPro teams.
    Check this out, if mls wants to steal my idea, go for it.
    MLS can get 26 or 28 teams, and MLS2 about 14 to 18 teams with east and west conferences and MLS3 will be the farm league and MLS4 a youth league.
    But the main factor of mls1 and mls2 is that there will be promotion and relegation between mls1 and mls2, but of course mls1 teams WILL NOT GO DOWN, WHY,
    Because you will reserve 2 spots or 1 , depending how many mls2 teams are in mls1.
    So you will put those 2 teams or 1 in their west or east conference.
    So if you put 4 teams in mls1, since mls1 is reserving those spots for them, then you will have 2 in each conference and the one that makes the least points in a season from those teams in their conference will go down and another mls2 teams goes up.
    It’s simple as that, but remember MLS1 teams don’t go down!!!!!

    • Soccer boy Texas says:

      Remember no mls1 teams go down and it depends how many teams mls1 (garber) wants from mls2 in mls1.
      He can say 2 or 4, which they will have their spots reserved in mls1 for promotion and relegation.
      If it’s 2, one in each conference, if it’s 4 then two in each conference. Simple as that, but remember, at the end of the season no mls1 teams go down, just mls2 teams.
      I honestly think, 4 teams would be perfect, 2 in each conference and that would be amazing and one from each conference goes down.
      That way markets like Nashville, st.louis, Tampa bay, Phoenix, okc, nc, sc, Pittsburg can have their chances.

  31. Paul Miller says:

    I’d like to see Pittsburgh get a team. Not sure it would be a good business move, but I’d like to see it.