SBD/Issue 154/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Garber Says MLS Hopes To Announce Montreal Expansion Team Soon

Garber Is Confident MLS Will
Announce A 19th Team Shortly

MLS Commissioner Don Garber Thursday said that the league "hopes to announce another expansion soon, this time to Montreal," according to Ronald Blum of the AP. Garber during a meeting with the APSE said, "We're confident that we'll be able to announce a 19th team shortly, and our hope is that 19th team will be in Montreal." He also said that MLS "would like to return to the southeast, either to Atlanta or South Florida." Garber: "Eventually I'm sure we'll get back to the southeast broadly and Florida more specifically. I'm not quite sure what the timing is of that, but I can't imagine this league will be fully expanded without having a team in Florida or south of Washington, DC. We continue to have discussions in Atlanta. I think Atlanta's a good sports market, also has some competition for its size, but lots of youth participation and a massive and growing Mexican population in Atlanta." MLS after the '01 season folded its two Florida franchises in Miami and Tampa, and Garber Thursday conceded that the league "does find some obstacles to returning to Florida." He said, "We in the sports business sort of look at Florida as a difficult market. Many of the pro sports teams there have challenges, and there's a lot of reasons for that: a lot of transient residents, a lot of international visitors that own second homes." Garber indicated that he thinks MLS ultimately "will grow larger than comparable first divisions in Europe," where leagues commonly have 20 teams. While eventually he would "like to see relegation and promotion, it's not on the horizon because there isn't a financially viable second division that would be acceptable to MLS owners if their teams went down" (AP, 4/22).

SETTING A BAD EXAMPLE: Thursday night's nationally televised Sounders-FC Dallas game drew an announced crowd of 8,512 to 21,193-seat Pizza Hut Park, and in DC, Steve Goff writes why, in MLS' "most problematic market, this particular match was played on a Thursday on national TV remains a mystery." MLS has enjoyed an "attendance increase this season, but you'd never know it by turning on ESPN2 and seeing thousands of empty seats" in Dallas (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/23). ESPN's JP Dellacamera: "Attendance has been a problem here in Dallas. ... FC Dallas has been averaging under 10,000 fans a game after two games this season. You wonder why: A terrific field, terrific seats" ("Sounders- FC Dallas," ESPN2, 4/22).

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