MLS expansion "remains as hot-button [an] issue as ever," which was "apparent during an hour-long Q&A session" Commissioner Don Garber held yesterday in advance of the start of the '14 season, according to Avi Creditor of SI.com. Garber "took questions from fans and journalists, over social media and the phone, with the expansion theme prevalent throughout." He said, "There will be a time, and that time is probably sooner as opposed to later, when we don’t have expansion questions." Garber has repeatedly said the league plans to expand to 24 teams by '20 (SI.com, 3/4). Garber said that the success of Sacramento Republic FC, which "debuts this month in the lower division USL Pro league -- will be a barometer of Sacramento’s future MLS goals." Garber: "The thing I would try to instill in the minds of everyone in the community there is, support the Republic. Show everybody in the soccer community in this country and certainly in California that the Republic can grow, that it can become very relevant in the marketplace, that the stadium can be bustling with passionate supporters and that the corporate community would support it" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 3/5). Garber also reiterated that Minneapolis is "on the short list" for expansion. In Minneapolis, Michael Rand notes Garber "did nothing to dispel the notion that there is a divergent path to that expansion here and that the previously presumed front-runners -- a group led by the Vikings -- might not, in fact, hold that status." He "did not mention the Vikings" during his call. He instead said, "We’ve had a high level of activity with the current [NASL] Minnesota United. That’s a strong ownership group, very passionate group of guys that are very embedded in the community" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/5).
OUTLOOK NOT SO GOOD? In San Antonio, Dan McCarney reported Garber was "full of praise" for the city as a potential expansion candidate, citing his "visit in late January to meet with" Mayor Julian Castro and NASL San Antonio Scorpions Owner Gordon Hartman at Toyota Field. However, he "stopped short of providing a full-blown endorsement, noting that San Antonio was not high on the league’s list of preferred destinations" announced last summer (MYSANANTONIO.com, 3/4). In Columbus, Adam Jardy notes Garber was asked about Cleveland getting a team, prompting him to "stump for the Crew." Garber: "What I would say to folks living in Cincinnati, the folks living in Dayton, the folks living in Cleveland: Support the Crew. ... If you’re living in Ohio, support the Crew. Great legacy MLS team." He added that the league "had discussions 'many years ago' about a possible team in Cleveland, but there haven’t been any talks of late" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 3/5).
REF LOCKOUT? In DC, Steven Goff reported MLS and its referees "edged closer to a work stoppage Tuesday after the sides failed to make progress in efforts" to reach a CBA before this weekend's matches. The sides "met for five hours Monday," but no additional meetings "are scheduled this week." Pro Soccer Referees Association lead negotiator Steve Taylor said management has "threatened a lockout." Taylor said that the Professional Referee Organization, which oversees officiating for MLS, "conducted a training camp in Dallas last weekend for potential replacement referees." The group "includes former MLS officials as well as foreign referees" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/4).