SBD/February 28, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Garber Lays Out MLS' Ten-Year Plan To Join World's Elite Soccer Leagues

MLS "wants to be considered among the world's premier soccer leagues" by '22, according to Tim Booth of the AP. Commissioner Don Garber said, "I think the plan has been in place for some time, now we have given ourselves a very targeted goal and it's a bold one. It's not going to be easy to achieve it but it's one we're very confident if we stay focused and things continue to align for us as they have the last couple of years." Garber said that becoming an elite league will require "major capital investment in player development, including youth programs, training for coaches and infrastructure improvements at training facilities." There also are plans for "increasing franchise exposure in local markets and expanding fan bases through new technologies." MLS' efforts "begin in earnest this season," with a primary focus on "improving player development and raising the level of play for a league that's been maligned in the past for the quality of the product." The timeline on the plans for growing MLS internationally "was supposed to coincide with U.S. Soccer entering a successful bid for the 2022 World Cup." But Garber and MLS continued to "keep that year as its target date." MLS "believes it's the next step in the evolution of a product that a decade ago was on shaky footing before seeing massive growth and success for most of the past 10 years" (AP, 2/27). Booth noted there are "other leagues taking notice of the improved quality in the league." Players who have recently "left MLS" for EPL clubs include Stoke City D Geoff Cameron and MF Brek Shea, Wigan MF Roger Espinoza, and Norwich City F Kei Kamara (AP, 2/27).

FIT FOR QUEENS? In N.Y., Filip Bondy notes Garber yesterday "warned the city ... that his soccer league will look elsewhere to expand if it can't cut a deal with officials for a new Flushing Meadows Corona Park stadium in a relatively short period." Garber: "If we're not successful we'll throw our hands up, and it'll be far sooner than three years we throw our hands up." He added, "Then we'd take a step back and see if there's another market." Bondy notes Orlando has been "mentioned as a possible alternative site for a 20th MLS team, though Garber sounded committed for now to Flushing Meadows" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/28). Garber said the proposed Corona Park stadium is "the biggest challenge we ever faced" (NEWSDAY, 2/28).

NORTHWEST PASSAGE: Garber said of the league battling MLS supporters over the Cascadia Cup trademark, "We didn’t go about this process right. ... We went and believed that the Cascadia Cup would be protected better if we were able to register that trademark, and we should’ve gone about it differently." He added, "We should’ve called up those folks that were the caretakers of it and had conversation and figured out how we could mutually achieve our goals." Garber: "I think the guys are making progress; they haven’t resolved anything. But I’ll say to you, and I want to say this to all the fans: I’m very confident that we will reach an agreement that will make everybody happy" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 2/27).

SURVEY SAYS...: SI.com's Grant Wahl conducted an MLS preseason player poll and asked which team had the best owner. Galaxy & Dynamo Owner AEG led with five votes, followed by Sounders Majority Owner Joe Roth with four. Red Bulls Owner Dietrich Mateschitz came in third with two votes. Wahl wrote, "The only surprise to me is not seeing Kansas City or Portland on this list." AEG is "seen as an organization that's willing to spend money and take care of its players." Revolution Owner the Kraft family was ranked as the worst in MLS with five votes, followed by Crew & FC Dallas Owner the Hunt family with four. Wahl: "Not particularly surprising, considering the Krafts and the Hunts have had this kind of reputation for a while with people who follow the league closely" (SI.com, 2/27).
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