Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber spent just under an hour answering media and fan questions on Tuesday – an interactive state-of-the-league ahead of this weekend’s opening to the MLS season. Here are the highlights from the session, embedded above.
(All responses listed in order they appear in the Q-and-A.)
Growth of Major League Soccer
“Our ultimate goal is to be a league of choice. If we become a league of choice for players and staff and fans, I think we will achieve that goal. A place where American and Canadian players want to play. A place where top international players want to play. A place where fans proudly say that they are a fan of this league, but more importantly a fan of their respective clubs …
“In order to be one of the top leagues in the world, you got to really be the top league in the region. In order to do that you have to have the top players in our country playing in our league.
On expansion, potential new markets
“There will be a time, and that time is probably sooner as opposed to later, where we won’t have expansion questions. The league will be fully expanded. That’s probably years from now … People care about it now because it’s part of the evolution of our league, of our business, but the time is going to come when this fully expanded.”
- Atlanta: “Discussions with Arthur Blank and his family have been going on since 2008 … We’re getting close. There are ongoing discussions. There’s not a rush to finalize something there. The new stadium that they’re planning is not going to open up for a number of years.”
- Texas – Austin and San Antonio: “It’s premature for both markets … Expanding in Texas, that’s likely going to happen. Where that happens, when that happens, remains to be seen.”
- Cleveland: “We need more teams in the Midwest … there haven’t been any discussions (about Cleveland) of late … Support the Crew.”
- Detroit: “We knew there’s been some interest. There haven’t been any discussions. Not sure it’s on the short list, but you never know.”
- Minnesota: “Minneapolis is on the short list. Lots of interest there. We’ve had a high level of activity with the current Minnesota United ownership group … We think they’re smart. We think they’re focused, and they’re great community citizens.”
- North Carolina: “Even in my early days — back in , 2000 — we’ve always looked around it, because it is a hotbed of soccer … We’ll monitor it. We’ve said we need to get south of Washington, D.C. Atlanta is a southern team. Florida … is south of D.C. … I’m not sure North Carolina is coming anytime soon.”
- Sacramento: “I would encourage every fan in that market: support the Republic; get behind it; build that team; build that brand. Show that there’s a real appetite north of San Jose for professional, high-level soccer, and we’ll see what happens.”
“We said a year ago we would come up [with] a solution to our challenges with our second team in L.A., and we have had challenges. When you’re running a young sports league, you’ve got to accept you’re not going to get [everything] right.u’ got to be bold enough to make tough decisions … and you have to be man enough to say ‘we didn’t make the right decision’ and come up with a plan to fix it. That’s where are with Chivas USA …
“Lots of interested parties. We have not set a price for it because we haven’t decided how we’re going to go about that process, because the first thing we need to do is get the ship back on path.
(Commissioner Garber also mention the University of Southern California as a potential site for a future Chivas USA venue. Answering a question about possible Chivas USA relocation out of Los Angeles, Garber said, “No.”)
On a potential stadium for New York City FC
“It’s tough to get stadium projects done in New York City, perhaps even more difficult than it was six months or a year ago … Short-term, sometime soon they’re going to make an announcement of where they’re going to play temporarily.”
On how the league has improved since he took over
“We are a stable, viable, and productive entity, where in 1999 or 2000, we were all trying to figure out what could this be and what would this be, and whether we can get through the next couple of years. We don’t really worry about that today …”
“We had a handful or owners, and today we have lots of them – more than I could mention … many of them are folks that have come into the league and this is their sole focus …”
“There was only one (soccer-specific) stadium at that time. Now we have 14 of our clubs playing in 15 buildings …”
“The infrastructure has changed dramatically … the big change that (U.S. Men’s National Team head coach) Jurgen Klinsmann sees today, even over a couple of years ago, is the training grounds are more professional, the opportunities for players from a nutrition and fitness perspective, the focus on medical testing — just overall sports medicine — has so dramatically changed because we have the capability to be able to do that.
On a future promotion/relegation system
On a single-table competition format
“Now that all the questions are more expansion-oriented, the single-table jockeys have gone quiet over the last year. I think we have a single-table competition with our Supporters’ Shield.”