SBJ/March 14-20, 2011/In Depth

MLS stories to watch in 2011


Following the FIFA announcement that Qatar won the 2022 World Cup, MLS dropped plans to adopt soccer’s international schedule, which runs from late summer until spring. With the addition of clubs in Portland and Vancouver, MLS has expanded its spring through fall schedule from 30 to 34 games this season. If the new schedule is a success, will MLS ever again contemplate a shift to the international schedule?

Expanded playoffs

Facing criticism for the 2010 postseason, in which six teams from the Western Conference and only two Eastern Conference teams qualified, MLS has expanded its playoffs. This year 10 teams will make the postseason (up from eight last year), with the top three teams in each conference claiming automatic bids, and the remaining four spots going to the highest remaining point totals.

Cosmic shift

The Cosmos have enlisted the help of Pelé, shown here with former Cosmos owner Peppe Pinton (left), USSF President Sunil Gulati, and team Chairman Paul Kemsley.
An ownership group headed by Paul Kemsley, former vice chairman of English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, has revived the brand of the New York Cosmos, and has gone so far as to add Pelé as the honorary team president. The team’s ambition is to gain the 20th MLS team spot for 2013. With a recognizable brand and strong financial support, the Cosmos’ only obstacle could be building a venue.

Reserve a spot

For 2011, MLS has resurrected the reserve league to improve its player development. The reserve league is split into three six-team conferences, and features a 10-game season and eight-team playoffs. Players from each team’s academy and regular roster can play in the league. The league’s creation coincided with MLS expanding rosters from 24 to 30 players. MLS previously disbanded its old reserve league in 2008, leaving many wondering whether it is here to stay.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber (second from right) celebrates with Montreal officials.

With MLS adding Montreal as its 19th team in 2012, how will the league continue its expansion? Will it invite NASL and USL clubs to step up, or look for new expansion organizations? Do untapped robust soccer markets still exist in North America? What type of markets should MLS try to develop? Should the league shoot for 30-32 teams like the other major American leagues?

— Compiled by Fred Dreier

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