Prior to the MLS Cup Final on Sunday, Don Garber held court today to discuss the good, the bad, and the future of MLS. Much of what he said is in no way surprising, but he did shed some light on some hot topics in the American soccer world –
Reserve League and Youth Development: MLS is seriously investing in youth and making it easier for clubs to develop their own players beginning next season. In 2011 rosters will be expanded to 30 players and the limit on signing homegrown players will be lifted; this year, clubs could only sign four. Prompted no doubt by the success of homegrown players like Andy Najar and the need for the national team to develop prospects (as well as saving money on signing players), MLS is certainly signaling its need to get younger. Of the 30 roster spots on each club, six will be reserved for players under 24 and their salaries will not count against the salary cap.
Additionally, Garber confirmed a poorly kept secret and announced the return of the Reserve League. The league would consist of three six-team divisions. Each team would play ten matches and the players would be eligible to play on the senior team, just as in England. The MLS website notes that two current stars (Wondo and Omar Cummings) honed their trade in the prior Reserve League. Obviously this is a change MLS fans had been pining for and it shows that the league is serious about putting money into the developing young stars.
Salary Cap: The salary cap in 2011 will be $2.67m, not counting designated players and homegrown players. In addition, Garber discussed financial incentives for clubs that advance in the CCL. Garber revealed he and the board have had discussions about giving financial incentives to clubs who advance to certain stages in the CCL, with increasing amounts the farther they advance. Most importantly, this money can be used towards salaries, above and beyond the current cap.
Playoff System: Garber addressed the concerns about the playoff structure and said he never expected the Eastern Conference champ in ’10 to come from the West. He shared that, in addition to conference alignment, the current playoff format would be up for discussion by the board. However, he stressed that the playoffs were here to stay.
Best XI: Congratulations to Donovan Ricketts; Jamison Olave, Nate Borchers, Omar Gonzalez; Landon Donovan, David Ferreira, Javier Morales, Sebastian Le Toux, Dwayne De Rosario; Chris Wondolowski, and Edson Buddle for being named Best XI of 2010. The only real controversy is that Donovan was listed as a forward in eligibility, but made the squad as a midfielder.
What do you think about the return of the Reserve League, the squad and salary expansion, playoffs, or the Best XI?