SBD/August 1, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Growth Chart: MLS' Garber Says League Set To Expand To 24 Teams By '20

Garber says the league doesn't plan on relocating any franchises
MLS Commissioner Don Garber last night during a halftime interview at the MLS All-Star Game announced the league is "going to expand by four teams by the end of the decade." Garber said, "A lot of cities are interested. Expansion's been a big driver in the success of our league, the diversity of our ownership groups, lots of new energy. So we've got some work to do (with) four teams by the end of the decade." ESPN's Kasey Keller said to Garber there is a "fear about maybe diluting the product when you are going into a big expansion." Keller asked, "Is there also a case to move maybe some underachieving franchises, because you're talking about a single-entity ownership and if you want the game to rise, the big teams get dragged down by the small teams." Garber said there is "no plan whatsoever to move any club." Garber: "We don't look at some of the challenges we have and think that we can solve it with moving. We've got to figure out what we need to do to solve those teams and then add new markets so we can have new fans and new excitement" ("MLS All-Star Game," ESPN2, 7/31).

GROWING THE GAME: ESPN FC noted MLS will have "added 10 new teams since the 2005 season when New York City FC begins play" in '15. Garber said that this has "helped to spearhead a significant growth in the game in the United States." Garber: "These expansion clubs have contributed to the vitality of our league, bringing passionate fans, new traditions and committed owners with new ideas" (ESPNFC.com, 7/31). The league said that it "already was in exploratory talks 'with multiple markets and potential owners regarding future expansion'" (L.A. TIMES, 8/1). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dieter Kurtenbach notes David Beckham is "expected to partner with billionaire Marcelo Claure ... to create an expansion franchise in Miami." The USL Orlando City FC "is expected to be another expansion team" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/1). In DC, Steven Goff reports, "Orlando is a clear front-runner and prospective investor David Beckham is flirting with Miami." Minneapolis and Atlanta "might try to tie new NFL stadiums into MLS bids," while San Antonio, Detroit and Sacramento "seem eager." St. Louis has "been in and out of the mix for years." The process of "determining future sites is not as simple as unfolding a map and pointing to areas of the country without a first-tier club nearby." MLS' criteria for landing a team include "committed and engaged" ownership, a "comprehensive stadium plan," and "demonstrated fan support for pro soccer." They also include "support from sponsors, TV partners and other constituents," plus geographic location and a "strategic business plan" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/1).

CALIFORNIA LOVE? The two groups who hope to bring an MLS team to Sacramento recently said that they are "willing to work together" to make that happen. In Sacramento, Tom Couzens reports USL Pro Sacramento Republic FC Owner Warren Smith, who heads one of the two groups, "believes the best way to lure the MLS is to first prove that the region can support a minor-league team." The other group wants an MLS team to play in Elk Grove, Calif., and Couzens notes whether to play there or in Sacramento is the "one big issue" that "separates the groups" (SACBEE.com, 8/1). SI.com's Brian Straus notes the league's CBA with the MLSPU and its broadcast contracts with ESPN and NBC "conclude after the 2014 season." MLS now "enters both re-negotiations from a position of strength" after the expansion announcement. MLS is "offering loads of new jobs" to the union, and to "potential TV partners, it can promise an expanding national footprint" (SI.com, 8/1).
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