Don Garber Addresses the Nation

HARRISON, NJ - AUGUST 03: MLS Commisioner Don Garber speaks to the media during a press conference to introduce Rafa Marquez to the New York Red Bulls on August 3, 2010 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

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?


43 thoughts on “Don Garber Addresses the Nation”

  1. Sounds like he's not willing to listen to suggestions on how to actually fix the problems, he just wants to do what he thinks needs to be done.

    Youth Development: Needs to be far reaching, nationwide, and include every possible youth who wants to play... unfortunately, I see only the development in the larger markets.

    Salary Cap: Ditch it. If MLS can't make an unlimited play for the best players in the world (without worrying about a designated player rule), then we'll continue to be looked at as a second tier league.

    Playoff System: I'm okay with the playoffs, though I don't consider the winner to be the champion. The European style "lover" in me considers the Supporter's Shield winner to be the MLS champion. The playoffs to me are just another competition.

    That is my 2 cents.

    1. Ditch the salary cap and let those owners who can go get the best players they can afford? That's insane. You clearly weren't around to watch that very thing happen in the NASL of the 1970's and early 80's.

      Fortunately, Garber and the MLS owners are smarter than that. While I take issue with some things, overall the slow-but-steady pace of growth is exactly the right call.

      1. Ditto,

        thank God, we have strong leadership. He gets a lot of grief for earning more than some teams, but he is worth every cent.

      2. i agree with DJ Allen on every point

        and ditch that "NASL" excuse. MLS today has more funding and more support than NASL did. you want to know what killed NASL? over expansion. yes its true teams like NY Cosmos did run up the bill a bit but the real reason was over expansion, creating franchises and then shutting the down takes alot of money and took a toll on the league. go look up how many franchises were started up and lost in the NASL. while i do agree than completely letting go the training wheels now would really make the league unstable but sooner or later MLS needs to take them off. we cant keep letting a NFL exec run a SOCCER league. i'd put a minimun of 5-7 years before we should really consider letting go of single entity and the salary cap. if ur all for it single entity and salary cap for ever and ever then ur obviously in favor of mediocre soccer, for which i pity you.

        the euro guy inside does to view the winner of the supporter shield as the true winner and the truely is the best club in MLS. playoffs is something else. but since americans are to reluctant to play the sport as it should i dont think playoffs should be eliminated but we should revert to a single table for the regular season. if we play a balance schedule there is no need for these silly conferences.

        i'm supporting garbage garber for now just because we are at a very fragile state still but once we start to really root ourselves to american sports market then we should really ditch this guy. i mean really he even stated that he doesnt understand soccer culture. why let a guy who is completley clueless about the sport run it? we gotta take steps to making the league less mickey mouse .

    2. You're telling me that Real can't produce youth players like say New York or LA?!? I'm sorry my friend... There's plenty of untapped talent in Utah (and I guess I should say Arizona too) for RSL to find and polish.

  2. I'm totally fine with having's the American way, and we should keep them because it's our tradition in sports (except college football, that is). However, what they need to get rid of are the stupid conferences and move to a single table league.

  3. Move to single table but keep playoffs (at 8 teams)
    Getting rid of the cap (although garber refuses to call it so) is a bad idea.
    Reserve League and youth development is moving in the right direction. Teams have already begun figuring that out. Adds to the sustainability and credibility of the league. Hopefully teams start playing more attractive ball like FCD or RSL.

    As much as people complain or call Garber an American Football man, Don Garber is a decent commissioner. At times it's good that he has an American perspective (salary cap), and bad (timid response to away group supporters allocation minimum)

  4. I think a single table would be fantastic and I also support the reserve league, but how exactly would it work? Would the reserve team play at the same stadium but on off days?

    Also I'm completely puzzled to learn there was a limit on the number of home-grown players a team can sign. Who exactly does that rule benefit? Glad they got rid of it, but why in God's name did they have it in the first place?

    1. Joe,

      The link "Reserve League" answers some of your questions regarding when the games would be played, but not where. I have a feeling it will depend on turf management, whether the team owns the facility, or if they do, whether or not they already booked Nickleback or Creed to ruin their pitch for the specific day. Optimally at the home ground, but possibly elsewhere (Seattle likely to play reserve games at Starfire Complex, just a hunch though)

  5. The league needs to go to a single table and ditch the conferences.

    If the league is going to keep the playoffs, they must do something to make sure that the top seeds actually have something to show for their seasons and for earning the top two spots. It's fairness and justice.

    For the last couple of years, the top 2 seeds or conference winners have been getting knocked off and eliminated without reaching the championship game soley because some team plays poorly throughout the season, but gets hot in the last couple of games. As if they entire season didn't mean anything and the season actually started in the playoffs.

    The best teams should play the worst teams. The top 2 seeds deserve some sort of bye so that they play at a later date and are better positioned to make the final. Having a bye will mean changing the usual 8 seeds to having less teams making the playoffs such as 6, or adding more teams like 10.

    1. The top team from the regular season already gets a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League, so it's not like they have nothing to show for their season.

      In terms of second place...tough luck I guess. At some point there has to be a cut off, and not getting it done in the playoffs screws you. That's how sports work in America - just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers how much it means that they had the best record in the NBA last season.

      I think we're too focused on always trying to figure out who's the best. Let's not think the regular season is pointless just because it doesn't award a championship - let's treat it as an enjoyable bit of soccer. And playoffs only add to the fun and excitement.

  6. That's a lot of good news right there.

    As for the regular season and playoffs (you can't talk about one and not the other IMO), I'm still crossing my fingers on that.

    -It seems to me that an unbalanced schedule is inevitable in this league. So if each team plays each other at least once, I'll be able to live with it as long as the playoffs make sense.

    Playoffs wise, aside from the current format, there's a lot of formats that I'd be happy with. Now if someone could only convince the Don to give up on this conference championship nonsense. If they managed to have a single bracket in 2000, I don't see why they can't do it now.

  7. Come on, Don. 6 teams from the west made the playoffs this past season. Single table. everyone knows this is the only way to do it. Sinlge table. Single table. Single table. How many people have to tell you the same thing b/f you wake up?
    There is absolutely no justification nor need for the conferences. Portland and Seattle will still be rivals, regardless of whether they are in the same conference.
    Don't make MLS into another NFL. Do it the right way.

    1. Everyone ? You must not read other comments on this sight.

      It is debated daily. Playoffs vs reg season. Single table vs. conferences. Euro way vs American sports way. Top heavy vs. parity. Even Landon in England vs Landon in LA.

      Pretty sure in all of those there is no EVERYBODY on any of these discussions.

  8. Single Table! how freaking hard is that? The salary cap is gay and it screws US players and forces them to go abroad. MLS needs to open the league in order to have an infinite amount of clubs to fill the void in markets that want SOCCER! In the current system if one franchise fails its a huge possibility that the league will fail as well.

    1. i agree with you rober, people think that removing the salary cap is just a move for clubs to start spending spending and spending, but a real advantage to letting clubs be independent with their contracts and finance and removing the salary cap is allowing clubs to offer more competitive contracts than over seas. part of the reason why players desperatley want to leave the league and foreign players refuse come here is because they get screwed over with their contract, salary and player rights. in MLS players dont have much rights compared to most league, although the league is taking steps to letting players have some rights. if players dont want to play here, we cant get competitive players and with a low salary cap it forces talented players here to look else where because they are making low salaries so then we are stuck with the mediocre players. it is impressive how the league is managing to make improvements to the league while working around the problem but thats just it the are working around the problem and not actually working on it. im not saying that we should lose the salary cap right now but in a couple of seasons we should really take steps to letting clubs have more freedom, players have more rights and salary cap being abolished. single entity has to go too and garber as well. all takes time but in the future we should really consider this.

  9. Not saying I am even right on this, but I don't see why everyone is sooo excited about the reserve league. I see about less than 1k showing up for the games.
    So now you are addressing player developement, which is happening at a pace unseen anywhere else in the world right now.
    Am I wrong on either of those ? I don't think so.

    I am concerned about the Don tending to bow down to those that DON'T want parity. CCL money would be on the verge of creating BORING EURO LEAGUE #75.
    Remember, we already have the stuff that Robert Hay ( who rocks btw ) alluded to, DPs, young players, if I am not midunderstanding, Gen Ad players don't fall into the salary cap either. Not a coincidence Sounders and big money teams always go after them.

    Don't listen to the most vocal Don, they probably want Landon to leave for a league they care more about, listen to the fan base that is going to grow this league.

    1. Attendance is not a factor regarding reserve leagues, nor should it be. It is purely for player development, getting younger players in regular competition with their peers, and identifying talent. I'm very pleased the league is going to re-start the reserves.

      What's with all of your Euro-rhetoric, Charles?

      I've been following MLS since its inception, and am also old enough to have seen the Cosmos play. While I, too, am in favor of some things that ensure MLS is an "American" league, I'm having a hard time with the number of fans who are reflexively anti-anything that they don't see as American. There are plenty of things to admire about leagues elsewhere in the world and are worth following as an example.

      1. Clampdown, I agree with you. Charles knows nothing about development. Reserves is not a league for people to go watch its simply for players to get minutes and come up through the ranks in the "club's" culture.

        1. Robert,
          My "knows nothing about player development" = coaching longer than you most likely have been alive.
          Unlike you, Clampdown didn't insult me, btw, he gave me informationthat I asked for. My point is there is no money in it and the US is already developing players and doing so more and more every year. My opinion is that the college system will crush all the other systems out there, so far I have been correct. Like I said I like to listen to other opinions...after the insult, thanks for yours.

          Clampdown, not trying to speak on behalf of others out there, but I am not Anti Europe, pro American in any way shape or form, I am anti boring leagues where only a few teams have a chance for decades at a time and I don't want my favorite American players playing in them either. ....the way MLS is set up is very exciting, don't change it drastically, this is not the 70s where people don' know what soccer is....... ps. I AM VERY pro soccer in the US.

          Always have been, like you I watched NASL through the 70s, and 80s, I watched the ALeague/USL through the decline to almost nothing now.

          1. OK.

            I don't think the reserves will greatly alter the system as it is, that's for sure. But, much like baseball provides two options for those wanting to go pro with a robust college system and the minor leagues, I think it can work for MLS. And I do think it will help development. For example, as a Red Bulls supporter, I was very excited to see Irving Garcia a few times this season. However, because he rarely played for the club, I have no idea about his progress. If there is a reserve league, then fans will be able to follow how these types of players perform, and how they stack up against up and comers for other clubs.

            I, too, enjoy the parity of MLS, and don't want to see drastic changes (though I am in favor of a single table, keeping the playoffs with the top 8). I hope that one day we will be able to retain our best players in MLS, but I think that's a bit down the road. I really can't begrudge Donovan, Dempsey, Holden, et al., for wanting to go play in England against top competition and make good money.

          2. Charles, again with your stupidity. What about the kids who aren't college bound? Should they be excluded from professional soccer? Stop being such a cheerleader for MLS and start asking some questions.

          3. Clampdown: Nah, absolutely not. They have to follow the money, best opportunity. I don't think they have any obligations. I am VERY glad that Landon and many other very good players have stayed here however, and very dissappointed that Clark and Holden left. Houston was 1/2 as fun to watch this year.

            I think many of the "Euridiot" guys however think that the college system is garbage because that is not how they do it in Europe. Did they read Moneyball ? Most likely not....or else have the viewpoint that soccer is soo much different than baseball or other American sports.

            Robert: I am usually not the insult throwing type, I like to hear/discuss everyone's opinion, but many, many times you are a waste of bandwidth.

          4. "I am anti boring leagues where only a few teams have a chance for decades at a time and I don’t want my favorite American players playing in them either. ….the way MLS is set up is very exciting, don’t change it drastically, this is not the 70s where people don’ know what soccer is……. ps. I AM VERY pro soccer in the US."

            i think the latest ESPN tv ratings for MLS shows which is really the boring league.

      2. What’s with all of your Euro-rhetoric, Charles?

        I’ve been following MLS since its inception, and am also old enough to have seen the Cosmos play. While I, too, am in favor of some things that ensure MLS is an “American” league, I’m having a hard time with the number of fans who are reflexively anti-anything that they don’t see as American. There are plenty of things to admire about leagues elsewhere in the world and are worth following as an example

        i agree, not all people advocating for things like single table and schedule change does not automatically make them euro-snobs. i get a head ache every time i see a comment like charles thats ignorant , anti-anything and "if it aint american it aint good". not everything thats american is great. last i checked cheeseburgers isnt healthy. like Clampdown said, there are alot to admire from other leagues and alot we need to take from them too. soccer isnt meant to be battered and deep fried. but i bet what would really make people like Charles happy is if MLS parted from FIFA and USSF and turned into the National Majore League Soccer Super Bowl Series.

        1. like Clampdown said, there are alot to admire from other leagues and alot we need to take from them too.

          Maybe. But by the same token, "other countries do that" is not a good enough reason by itself to change something. Any proposed change needs to stand or fall on its own merits.

          i bet what would really make people like Charles happy is if MLS parted from FIFA and USSF and turned into the National Majore League Soccer Super Bowl Series.

          And what would really make people like Alex happy is if MLS turned into the American Premier League, an exact carbon copy of the EPL.

    2. "Don’t listen to the most vocal Don, they probably want Landon to leave for a league they care more about, listen to the fan base that is going to grow this league."

      Soccer moms and casual NFL fans? MLS's mission is to convert real soccer fans who actually know alot about the sport to not give MLS a chance. if MLS wants to be successful it has to start aligning itself with the rest of the world. and no the rest of the world is not just europe. Look at Japan, they did so in 93 and they're J1 and J2 league are flourishing and their national team is pretty good. Australia is looking to do the same to improve their soccer structure and make Australia a power house in Asia. we should be looking to do the same, and no this doesnt immediatley point to pro/rel (though we shouldnt rule it out in the future) but hey if ur fine with the state of the league being runned by a NFL dude then hey be happy but so long as MLS keeps trying to force americanized tactics on soccer fans its not going to work. I'm a American, i like MLS because its our league and i support it but really we need to change.

      1. Alex,

        Is the Seattle Sounder's with a ton of fans and making money hand over fist, a success or a failure ?

        You seem to think it is a failure, no ?

    3. "I am concerned about the Don tending to bow down to those that DON’T want parity. CCL money would be on the verge of creating BORING EURO LEAGUE #75."

      I can understand your worries, Charles. But there's a difference between keeping the league competitive, and handicapping good clubs by forcing them to do more with less.

      With regards to CCL money, I don't think the idea is to give top performing clubs a massive payday. RSL and Columbus had to play 6 more matches and travel a helluva lot farther than the rest of the league. Yet, despite the fact that they're literally working more, they have the same pay and roster restrictions as everyone else. I think it's pretty reasonable to make a few exceptions for teams competing internationally.

  10. I don't know how I feel about single table vs. conferences, but I think the Single Table lovers should be ready for more conferences.

    I think the Reserve League's 3 conferences of 6 is a big hint toward where the MLS is going. Then, the playoffs would resemble the NFL -- 3 conference champs and 5 WC's?

    1. no, reserve league has more conferences because its only intended as a development league rather than something serious like MLS. plus most if not all of the players in the reserve league has a life outside soccer (e.g. school, family, jobs etc) and also transportation cost for rerseve clubs to travel all over US and Canada is absurd, which is why i think MLS took down the previous reserve league. if MLS was to introduce more conferences it will really turn alot of fans off, even those who are for conferences. and that is not what MLS wants

      as for your playoff opinion, i think we have enough champions as it is. we have 4 champions (MLS cup, East, West, and the Shield) if we can have single table (which i wont mind) we can have one true champion, or the smarter way Single table with playoffs then atleast we can have one true champion (the shield) and a playoff champion (mls cup)

    1. .................ok ummm ill spell it out for you

      the Reseve league is designed so youth players and players who are not getting time in the First team can get experience and development with the reserve squad. in case you havent caught on yet ITS DESIGNED TO DEVELOP YOUTH PLAYERS. we wont see the effects now but in a couple of season you will see players go from the youth academy to the reserve squad to the first team and this will not only provide clubs with talented players but also provide a pool of players for USMNT to scout. people think this is a second division and that fans are not going to support it. its not intended as a second divison for fans to show up its designed for development. i hope that by now you can understand it. combine this with College soccer, NASL/USL and the dozen of youth academies MLS clubs have and we have a network of ways for players to come up from and truely become star players.

      and to make it alittle more interesting for you DC United can really use more Andy Najars which came from your youth academy i believe.

  11. "Gar­ber addressed the con­cerns about the play­off struc­ture and said he never expected the East­ern Con­fer­ence champ in ’10 to come from the West. "

    For serious? He had *no idea* this was possible?!?!?! So how's having NFL people run MLS working out?

    The NFL makes monster profits because they have a monopoly on American Football in a super rich country that cares about American Football. This doesn't translate to soccer. Just ask Malcolm Glazer, or Hicks/Gillete...or John Henry who recently compared the EPL to the Wild West.

    Someone who could run MLS better by accident.

    1. I keep reading about the NFL being a monopoly. Last I checked, FIFA is a monopoly too. Why does not anybody ever complain about that?

  12. "In the current system if one franchise fails its a huge possibility that the league will fail as well."

    YES YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES!!!!!! This is sonething Garber, Kraft Gulati and friends don't understand.

    Portsmith goes down, West Brom comes up.
    Leeds goes down Fulham comes up.
    Newcastle goes down, Bolton comes up.
    Hull goes down, Newcastle comes up.

    Open-pyramid + pro/reg = self correcting MLS. The people who own MLS/SUM would make more money because pro/reg and open-pyramid mean cities get as many teams as they can support, and those teams play in appropriate leagues with competivie balance within the leagues...Yup, pro/reg *increases* competitive balance:

  13. "The salary cap in 2011 will be $2.67m, not counting designated players and home grown players."

    That is not including DP salaries after the first 335K(per DP).

    Conferences OK with me with playoff seeding 1-8, or 1, 2 for the conference champs and 3-8 for the rest.

    For those wailing for the end of the salary cap... are you not paying attention to the impending financial crisis at many of the big Euro clubs and the restrictions that are being put in place to curb salaries? Read and learn. More and more whispers from Euro owners calling for a cap. The profligate spending is going to come to an end.
    And oh yeah, EPL domestic only TV money exceeds $1 Billion annually, MLS ... around $20 Million.

    A question for anyone out there...
    Using Dallas as an example, they have 16 players that as of 9/15 are under 24 years of age. 3 are home grown and 1(?) is Generation Adidas. How many of the 12 non HG/GA will be exempt from the salary cap?


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