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MLS commissioner Don Garber addresses media and fans

Feb 28, 2013, 9:40 AM EST

Garber-Google

MLS commissioner Don Garber put a modern flourish Wednesday evening on his annual talk to help kick off the new season. A Google+ Hangout, produced at Google’s New York City office, was the delivery device as Garber fielded questions from journalists and fans.

Among the significant touchstones:

  • A lot of the questions were about New York’s second franchise. Long story short here, MLS continues to plan on the 20th club landing there, and says development plans on the new stadium in Flushing Meadows are moving along, but with “a lot of work to do.”
  • In fact, getting that stadium for a second NYC club represents “the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced,” Garber said.
  • The Cosmos, about to begin play in domestic soccer’s second tier, will not be that team. Not without a meaningful sea change on the relationship between the new-old club and MLS. Garber: “They had a choice to make: Do they want to vie for a New York City MLS team or do they want to go to the second division? They decided to go into the second division and we support that and continue to support the NASL and the USL.”
  • He did identify Orlando, Miami, Minneapolis and Atlanta as the current bunch of secondary expansion candidates. It does not sound like anything is close in any of those markets, although Orlando’s aggressive posture on stadium plans seems to have the Florida city better positioned than others.
  • Garber spoke on the new initiatives aimed at tamping down certain undesirable behaviors along the sidelines and involving the referees. More on that here and here.
  • He said the league does intervene occasionally as MLS clubs negotiate with foreign clubs over player sells, indicating that MLS does have interest in player valuation that may not always align with individual club interests. He said the league was “very involved” with the recent Brek Shea talks, which stalled before the FC Dallas winger was finally sold to Stoke City for a total just below $4 million.
  • Along those lines, Garber indicated that he would prefer the league “never sell a player.” More on this one later at ProSoccerTalk.
  • Garber expressed support for Landon Donovan, who remains away from the Galaxy for another few weeks. “This young guy has been holding the responsibility as the leader of the sport on the field since he was 15, 16 years old. None of us have had to do what Landon has had to do. … Think about it. It’s unprecedented for a single athlete in a professional sport.”
  • The single-table format questions that will always come up at these things? Not. Going. To. Happen. As always, Garber reiterated  that Major League Soccer’s board of governors remain bullish on a playoff structure.

Here’s the video of Garber’s address, and the question-and-answer session:

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  1. docstraw - Feb 28, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    I like the idea of playoffs but they need to blow up the current structure. Why not go to a group stage in each conference and then home and away knockout format.

    • joeyt360 - Feb 28, 2013 at 6:41 PM

      Group stage would need some substantial ‘fixes’–especially against the last place team tanking the last game and throwing the group result. The Canadian Championship used to be decided in group play, and this happened to them in 2009.

  2. dfstell - Feb 28, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    All interesting tidbits. I enjoy MLS and appreciate what they do and have done, but it’s very obvious that people who complain about various things in MLS like single-table or player movement or whatever should stop wasting their time complaining to Don Garber. They’d be better off pouring their money/loyalty/passion into something like the NASL where those sorts of things are actually happening.

    I know we call the NASL “the second division”, but without pro/rel the NASL is just a competing league. They’re more like the AFL or USFL to the NFL or the ABA compared to the NBA. If the NASL is successful, eventually MLS would have to merge with them or create some kind of pro/rel system and that change might include a lot of the things the renegade fans want.

    • mvktr2 - Feb 28, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      Very well put.

      I however see the challenge becoming greater for NASL as time goes along and MLS grows in stature and economic prowess. The next TV deal is about 2 years away and iirc all TV contracts are set to expire at the close of the season. This next deal is timed perfectly on the heels of another WC, with the addition of nyc2 (if all goes well), the league continues to grow, and all contracts ending at the same time means a more competitive sellers market. A bidding war over MLS rights… one can dream can’t they!

  3. mvktr2 - Feb 28, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Combined with what I said about being hopeful on the TV side another big reason to start believing in MLS is they’re starting to show signs of taking player development seriously. The USL Pro partnership is a first step at addressing the glaring U20 & U23 development hole. I’m hopeful that grows into a full on partnership capable of supporting the kind of development the league needs for it’s older players in development.

    What I believe MLS is doing right is seeking to grow the league as a whole. Meaning, seeking to raise the individual team’s commitment to player development, improve scouting around the globe, improve the remaining facility upgrades needed around the league (DC, NE, you’re on the clock), attract foreign stars and in doing so attract foreign fans. I think Garber/MLS are doing it mostly the right way, as a sustainable product, but wish they’d push harder in certain areas. His notes on Liga Mex were fairly telling and I thought good observations. His comments were also quite honest I thought in assessing where MLS is relative to other leagues including the neighboring Mexican league which is obviously ahead.

    Something I’d like to see improved is to add 2-3 ‘intermediate DP’ slots. Meaning on top of the 3 DPs which can be paid whatever the club is willing to pay allow another 3 slots for guys who’s salary can’t exceed $800,000 but only counts around 150K toward the salary cap. This would allow the league to hold onto more young players, attract more good young players from around the globe, and attract more good players period without bankrupting anyone or overly upsetting the balance of power in the league.

    • dfstell - Feb 28, 2013 at 11:04 AM

      I like that idea a LOT. The thing is that a lot of the current DPs would be in that intermediate status right now. Even though the salary cap implications of all the DPs is the same, it’s obvious that we expect a guy like Robbie Keane to be more impactful than some of the lower paid DPs (who are making 5X less money).

  4. whordy - Feb 28, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    Your question was great Steve.
    While I can’t hate Garber as the MLS is on the right path, I still think (and it seems like most other journalists based on Twitter) he needs to realize the MLS is going to be a feeder league long before it is a destination league. It just isn’t possible to jump past all these good leagues like he wants to.
    That being said, I don’t think his beliefs are negatively impacting the league in this case. It’s simply his personal opinion that I don’t agree with.

    • Steve Davis - Feb 28, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      Thank you, Wordy. (I was the one who asked Garber about where the league feels it is appropriate to get involved in what is, essentially, a negotiation between two clubs.) As for MLS as a feeder league vs. destination league … keep reading ProSoccerTalk. That part where I said “more on it later … ” Yes.

  5. mvktr2 - Feb 28, 2013 at 12:17 PM

    Big question, Steve or anyone whom knows:

    Commish Garber in answering a question concerning lower division-player development issues at about the 50-51 minute mark says that 4 MLS teams have decided to invest in the USL Pro.

    1 – Which 4 teams?
    2 – Does this mean these 4 teams will found, sponsor, and field full on USL sides? (VERY impressive for those 4 teams if this is correct)

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