SBD/March 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Don Garber Still Advocating Wilpons As MLS Franchise Owners

Garber notes MLS has been talking with Wilpons for several years
MLS is "publicly standing by" Mets Owners the Wilpons "as they deal with the specter of a potential" $1B lawsuit, according to Jim Baumbach of NEWSDAY. MLS Commissioner Don Garber Friday said that the league "still is interested in welcoming the Wilpons as owners of a team despite their current financial issues." MLS has expressed interest in adding a second franchise in the N.Y. market, and Garber said, "They've shown great interest in continuing some level of discussions with us, and we'll continue to do that. They have some short-term challenges, and hopefully they'll get through them." He added, "We've been in discussions on and off for the better part of a couple of years, including over the past couple of months. The discussions haven't been in great detail, but I continue to reach out to them to wish them well" (NEWSDAY, 3/12). In N.Y., Jack Bell noted an uncertain financial situation "could preclude the Wilpons' involvement in MLS." But Garber said, "They fit very well with our owners and I really hope they get through their issues quickly. I don’t believe the full story has been told. I’m supportive personally and professionally." Also in N.Y., investors have "recently relaunched the Cosmos in the hope of becoming" MLS' 20th team. Garber said, "Today the Cosmos are a very exciting relaunch of a retro brand that they can extract value for merchandise sales, event programming. ... We still need to get more from them about how they would be capitalized, what the structure would look like, how they would plan to fund a private stadium in the most expensive construction market in the country and their commitment to the view of the MLS as a single-entity concept. The best way to describe discussion is that they are preliminary, but positive" (, 3/11). More Garber: "There are others much less public than the Cosmos who continue to express interest. Sometime by the end of the year we'll have a better sense as to where we're going with the 20th team. But I'm committed to trying to finalize a deal so it can be here in New York" (, 3/11).

SWEET 16? In L.A., Grahame Jones noted MLS kicks off its 16th season tomorrow night, and Garber on Friday was "happily talking about expansion and the planned construction of new stadiums." MLS is adding two teams this season -- the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps -- and a new soccer-specific stadium in K.C. These are "positive moves, but they should not be allowed to overshadow that the product on the field will ultimately determine the league's success." Can MLS "overcome the notion that it is now and forever will be a second-tier operation, a feeder-league whose brightest young shooting stars sooner or later arc across the Atlantic night sky to make their fortunes in Europe?" For now, Garber's "focus is on the business side." He talks about the Kraft family "actively seeking a site for a stadium in downtown Boston" for the Revolution, and the "crying need for a stadium" in the DC area. Garber also "talks about possible expansion teams in all sorts of places where the MLS flag does not fly." He said, "I believe we will be larger than 20 teams. I can't say when that will be. But I can't imagine that when this league is fully expanded we won't have teams in the Southeast, that we don't have another team in the Midwest, that we're not even expanding to the southern part of California." Jones wrote, "Sooner or later the limit will have been reached, the stadiums all will have been built and attention will necessarily shift from bricks and mortar to flesh and blood. In the meantime, a little more attention to the way MLS teams play rather than where they play would be welcome" (L.A. TIMES, 3/13). Ahead of tomorrow night's Galaxy-Sounders season opener, Garber said, "I’d say this is the most anticipated season in our history. We’ve had a period of pretty good growth, especially in the Pacific Northwest. It certainly wasn’t our intent (to shift from East to West), but there was a dearth of professional soccer in that area for many years, and the minor-league clubs were very popular, and it just worked out that way" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/12).
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