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State of the Union: Garber Talks Cosmos, Baltimore, and World Domination

The annual MLS State of the League audio conference, held prior to the MLS Cup, is usually good for some news and gossip from the MLS league office.  This year’s conference was no different, as The Commish touched on the hot topics of expansion and relocation, as well as more nuts and bolts like life with 19 teams.

As if the identity of the 20th MLS franchise had not been all but known, Garber made it clear the Cosmos would likely be coming back if MLS could find a place for them to play.  “The issue remains the soccer stadium,” he said on the call.  “We do believe we have two or three sites that are viable, and we’re going to continue to work as hard as we can to move this as fast as we can.’’  MLS has hired architects and land-use consultants to help build a soccer stadium in New York.  But in terms of owners, he’s a little less concerned.  He noted the league has not spoken with the Wilpons “lately” but plan to re-engage with them once their issues have been sorted out.

But before fans dust off their Cosmos gear to use again, Garber noted that neither the name or location is a done deal.  Garber will meet with the new Cosmos’ ownership group at MLS Cup but said they are keeping all ownership options open.  He also said that the league has met with ownership groups in Detroit, Orlando, and Las Vegas to explore options and locations for their 20th and future teams.

In terms of relocation, Garber further advanced the notion the United’s days in DC are dwindling.  He noted that the financials for the team were damaging (Events DC owns RFK and because of this DCU ownership claims they’ve lost millions on the deal) and that moving them is not out of the question:

“We have to aggressively figure a solution out, and that solution needs to be figured out soon. I am concerned about where this team will be in 2012. They’ve been operating without a new lease. They’ve been in discussions on a lease to try to improve their terms. I’m shocked to say they could be paying more for their lease in RFK than any other team we have in the league. There is no doubt in my mind that it’s a stadium that is substandard to what soccer fans are able to experience in many other markets.”

Garber noted that he would support a move to Baltimore or, if that fell through, to an entirely new market altogether.  He even went as low as to mention the RFK raccoon, a critter that DCU scribes have seen running around the stadium as a symbol of the team’s poor facilities.

As for next season, the league will be moving to an unbalanced 34-game schedule but revealed few details other than that.  The league is also considering doing away with neutral-site MLS Cup matches and instead moving it to the home stadium of the Supporter’s Shield winner.  Of course this year LA is playing at their home stadium but the league has experienced two teams playing at a less than full neutral site as recently as 2010 in Toronto.

Maybe the most interesting topic was his vision for the next ten years of MLS.  Noting the success of the league in merchandise sales (up 35% this year), attendance (7% to an average of over 17,000 a game, although with two new teams), and TV viewership (16% on ESPN networks, 26% on FSC, 10% on Telefutura), Garber stated that by 2022 he wants MLS to be one of the top leagues…. in the US?  No, in the world.

“At the end of the day, we want to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world. And we want to try to achieve that by 2022.  We want to the league of choice, the league of choice for players, for sponsors, for fans.”

Now as a league commissioner you have to talk the talk and set high goals for your league.  But one of the top leagues in the world?  Really?  Maybe he should aim to have passed the NHL by that time period instead of trying to nudge aside Serie A.  I admire the gusto but that goal may be way way too high.

But what do you think about the State of the League address?  Is Garber crazy or spot on, on any of these topics?

32 Responses to State of the Union: Garber Talks Cosmos, Baltimore, and World Domination

  1. Geess says:

    The MLS Cup would be at the FINALIST with the best regular season
    record, NOT necessarily at the SS winner.

  2. soccerreform says:

    It’s great that Don Garber wants MLS to be a top league. Now can
    someone ask him how he plans to do that? Hate to grill the poor
    guy, but wants don’t solve anything.

  3. Robert says:

    I think it’s time for Garber to step down. He has done a great job
    at getting teams stadiums and getting the league on steady ground
    but MLS has out grown his qualifications. Average attendance for
    MLS outlets open at least one year are not up 7% with a 17,000 a
    game. That comes from the new entrants along with the power house
    that PNW is. Sorry Garber but your time is up. We need a soccer guy
    to run the league now.

  4. dcudiplomat96 says:

    A soccer guys. With a european agenda will run the League to the
    ground. Only Eurosnobs want MLS to be like europe. They don’t care
    that its a American league and they don’t care if its gonna
    alienate potential fans.

    • Robert says:

      Spoken like a true Yes Man. Next Year your going to have to update
      your handle to BaltimoreUdiplomat2012.

      • Ron says:

        There are more soccer fans in this country who do not watch MLS
        than do. The way MLS is run now is alienating more fans than if
        they went to a balanced schedule and eliminated conferences. As
        much as you want to hate on “Eurosnobs”, there are more of them
        than MLS fanboys.

      • Sgc says:

        You’re going to have to find a real argument beyond this ‘yes man’
        BS, because it looks to me like you’re mirror imaging–that you
        just like to bitch about everything and can’t understand anyone who
        doesn’t.

      • Charles says:

        And you call me out for being a jerk. Wow, what tool.

  5. Achowat says:

    To the author: If MLS passes the NHL it will be one of the Top
    soccer leagues in the world. It would be #2 so I don’t get the last
    paragraph. To Ted/Robert: Given that every doom and gloom
    prediction you’ve had about MLS in the last few years has been
    wrong – what are you going to do when MLS is a Top 3 league with
    Garber and the current BOG the reason? Will you admit you were out
    to lunch? My guess is you guys don’t have the stones.

    • Ron says:

      MLS will not be a Top 3 league in this country. No chance under its
      current set up. You think 2.6 million dollar salary caps are going
      to intrigue the American public to watch soccer. If anything you
      are going to find more people looking to Europe to find the quality
      they want. MLS totally concedes huge chunks of the American soccer
      market just so they can be a European followers “second” team. MLS
      has absolutely no excitement. The playoffs are a farce, just a
      crapshoot, where most years the top two teams are not even playing
      in the final, the talent of the field is horrific, and the amount
      of money being put into the league is a joke. Don Garber can talk
      all he wants about becoming a top league in the world yet he is
      afraid to take on the other leagues in his own country. Cant see
      how he will try to take on the Bundsliga, EPL, Seria A, etc,
      especially while limiting the investment in the game.

    • Andy says:

      McMLS has zero chance of being a top 3 league. Soccer fans in the
      U.S don’t even watch MLS

      • Alex says:

        McMls. i like that. ima start calling that mafia McMls now

      • Ben says:

        Your comment is getting old and annoying, real soccer fans in North
        America do watch MLS, of course I prefer the EPL but the MLS is
        good also. M Garber have a vision, what is wrong with that, the way
        labor talks are going right now in Pro sports in North America, he
        maybe right about 2022, time will tell.

  6. CTBlues says:

    There is no way the Wilpons will buy into the MLS. They don’t even
    have enough money to run the Mets and are looking for minority
    investors that will have no say about team will get some nice seats
    and all that for a cool $10mil. I hope they are able to get a
    stadium in NYC proper so I wont have to go to Jersey to see a team
    play. Would have been nice to hear him say something about possibly
    getting the cogs going for pro/rel by 2022 (not implementing just
    start communicating with USSF, NASL, and USL).

  7. Charles says:

    So The Don, who has been right in just about everything he has said
    and done, says top league in the world. And Robert and Co, who have
    been wrong every time they type, say no way. Cool. Looking forward
    to 2022.

    • Andy says:

      Garber has done well. But the current MLS structure only has so
      high of a ceiling. Even if you go to 24 teams, that’s at most 22
      cities with MLS teams. I’m sorry but that’s not enough to create a
      soccer culture in this country. You’re leaving out the rest of the
      country from having a rooting interest. What is needed is an
      ambitious plan to develop the pyramid with promotion and
      relegation. Call it a 10 year plan, put up strict benchmarks; for
      example no pro/rel between Div 1 and Div 2 until Div 2 has 3/4 of
      it’s clubs with Soccer Specific Stadiums. You could even allow MLS
      to develop their own D2 under the MLS brand so that relegated teams
      don’t lose that part of their identity; call the top league MLS
      Premier, then MLS, then NASL or USL can compete for that 3rd Div.

      • dan says:

        Well all of these leagues need to be under the US Soccer
        Federation. You can keep the top as MLS but then under it even if
        its USSL or NASL its still under the same umbrella. How do you
        convince bandwagon american fans to stick to their real teams
        though after they get relegated?, I dunno. The USA is by far one of
        the worst sports bandwagoning cultures in the world

        • Andy says:

          Dan, Actually i would argue the opposite. Americans when compared
          to other countries are just as loyal and maybe even more so to
          their local team. The reason we seem to have a lot of
          disloyal/bandwagon fans is because for many individuals there is no
          local team so they just root for the best team to make themselves
          feel better. There is a bandwagon affect in the NFL and NBA but are
          you really telling me that if the Portland Timbers get relegated
          they will lose fans to another MLS team? Data shows that all
          relegated teams lose some attendance and support but there’s no
          evidence those fans just decide to support another team because
          they are in a higher league.

          • Tim says:

            Loyalty is won, pure and simple. Most of these clubs are new to
            people, so they have to gain embedded loyalty. If the Packers went
            0-16, Lambeau would sell-out every game. If the Jags went 0-16,
            Jacksonville would be handing out tickets for free. You use
            Portland, but Portland sports fans are extremely loyal. If FCD got
            relegated, you’d be lucky to see the players’ families. MLS and
            soccer clubs in general would have to gain a strong and invested
            fan base before starting pro/rel. Most of them do not have one and
            would not survive.

  8. Pakapala says:

    All great accomplishments always start with a “pipe dream” if you
    listen to detractors. Having a goal of making MLS one of the top
    leagues in the world by 2012 is in no way an indication that Garber
    “is crazy”, au contraire, Robert.

  9. Robert says:

    Top Leagues in the world don’t lift trophies. I want top clubs in
    the world to play in the United States.

  10. MLS Buzz says:

    Garber Makes Major Announcements for 2012: 1. Half the league will
    be relocated to New York. It is absolutely critical that we get at
    least 10 teams playing in NYC as soon as possible. It’s the only
    way to become a truly national league. We must saturate that huge
    market!! It’s a big impressive city! Swimmin’ pools, movie stars!!
    2. We will expand the MLS Cup playoffs to NASL & USL teams as
    well. Why not? It will keep the excitement nationwide!! Nationwide,
    I tell ya’!!! Whooooo hoooo!!!! 3. Instant replay and time outs for
    commercials will be instituted immediately. Starting with this
    years MLS Cup. I know some people might not like this because they
    watch the Premier League. Well, screw those commie bastards, this
    is America dammit!!! 4. The league shall henceforth be divided into
    the Northeastern Conference, the Southeastern Conference, the
    Northmiddleeastern Conference, the South Middleeastern Conference,
    the Northwestern Conference, and the Southwestern Conference, with
    a random Wild Card Conference thrown in there for NASL & USL
    teams that make the playoffs. The champions of each conference will
    face off in a game of Rugby against the corresponding Major League
    Baseball team in their region for a chance at the final round if
    MLS Cup playoffs, which we will be marketing as the Monster Truck
    Rally Redneck Rumble, so we can try and attract some of the
    non-soccer fans out there and widen our audience. Now I know a lot
    of you won’t like these changes, because you watch the Premier
    League, but hell, we’re gonna be bigger than those yahoos in a few
    years anyway, then you buncha whiney girly men can go suck it!! I’m
    the king a’ the world!!! Ahhhh hahahahaha!!!!

  11. dan says:

    Single Table, No Playoffs, AND Get New England and DC United some
    FREAKING NEW OWNERS! It is a complete disgrace Also the unbalanced
    schedule is a joke

  12. MLS Buzz says:

    Hey, Don Garber here again. Thanks for bringin up the new,
    unbalanced/unfair schedule. I would like to address how that will
    affect the Supporters Shield race. Since some teams will have to
    play the Galaxy 8 times, while others will play Toronto 8 times,
    it’s clear the Shield would go to the team with the easiest
    schedule. To prevent that, the captain of the team with the easiest
    schedule will face off with the captain of the team with the
    hardest schedule in a bare-knuckle cage match to be televised on
    pay per view. In the event that neither captain is beaten
    unconscious by the end of the Supporters Shield Smackdown (catchy,
    eh?), it will be considered a draw. In which case I will just pull
    name of a team outta my ass and give the Supporters Shield to them.
    Anyways, I’d love to stay here and talk some more, but I gotta get
    back to my Godzilla-like rampage of ruining pro soccer in the US…

    • Alex says:

      “To prevent that, the captain of the team with the easiest schedule
      will face off with the captain of the team with the hardest
      schedule in a bare-knuckle cage match to be televised on pay per
      view.” furthermore the smackdown will be further divided into more
      conferences to grow rivalries within the smackdown.

  13. Robert says:

    I believe MLS is going to have to start issuing an asterisk to all
    former and future MLS Champions because the format at awarding
    trophies has changed every god damn year. Houston is in the MLS
    final this year but was part of the Western Conference last year.
    If they win they should get an asterisk along with the trophy and
    put a footer to describe that they used to be in the western
    conference but now in eastern conference.

  14. NYCSCCRFAN says:

    Does it matter what Conference they were in, their finishing record
    would have put them in the playoffs anyway. And whats the big
    hatred towards the playoffs. The regular season makes players want
    to win yes, but the playoffs, and the idea that its a win or go
    home scenario similar to the EUFA and World Cup tourney makes
    players play a heck of alot harder. Also If the Single Table format
    with the club at the top at the end being a winner was such a good
    idea wouldnt the world cup and most of the world leagues be
    formatted that way. They arent. Stop Bitching about the problems in
    the league, most of those EPL teams you admire so much are in
    hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. The Top five European
    teams are in debt of about $5billion. So you know what slow isnt
    that bad idiots, the MLS has only been around for 15 years, and
    unlike the WNBA people actually care what happens to the MLS. Be
    grateful, we have a league that people actually talk about.

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