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Volume 24 No. 155

Leagues and Governing Bodies

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 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 (, 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 (, 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" (, 3/4).

Worries that MLB's "groundbreaking expanded use of replay this year will bog down the game with more dead time probably are not necessary," according to Tom Verducci of There likely will be "bugs to work out," but the use of expanded replay is the "best thing to happen to baseball since ballpark nachos." MLB now has the "ability to get most calls right." Replay "does away with the shame of a ballgame being decided by an obvious blown call and the resultant ignominy for the umpire." It also "adds another element of strategy," in that managers "get one replay challenge per game" (, 3/4). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes, "Sign me up for expanded instant replay, and for one simple reason: It insults my intelligence when an outcome is changed, when history is changed, because of a blown call." This "latest baseball innovation is going to be a work in progress, and we all will be subjected to its growing pains." Buckley: "Tough. Deal with it. What matters is that in most cases we’ll get a clean outcome" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/5). ESPN's Bomani Jones said the initial replay challenges during Spring Training games Monday felt like they were "awfully long, and it may not be like that in the regular season." Jones: "But getting it right, as people want, it is going to come with cost and people are going to do some complaining." Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said the Spring Training replays are not "going to be anything like the real thing" during the regular season and playoffs. Cowlishaw said of one video of a challenged call, "The replay looked like it was from the upper deck. ... You can't really even tell what's going on." But he added teams likely are "going to have a good scout or coach telling the manager, 'Yes, challenge this'" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 3/4). But the Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay said, "You're talking about a game ... that already has a time issue." Gay: "The idea that you're going to add another hitch to it seems crazy to me" ("Crowd Goes Wild," FS1, 3/4).

MAKING THE CALL: The AP's Steve DiMatteo reported the Indians have hired former minor leaguer Gregg Langbehn to "be their major league replay coordinator." Langbehn will "watch games from the clubhouse and advise on when to challenge an umpire's decision." Indians manager Terry Francona said, "There will be communication to the dugout, I'm assuming it's a hard line. He's going to call us, because if there's something going on, I'm going to have to go out on the field. It will be our responsibility to communicate with him in a timely fashion and then we make our own decisions" (AP, 3/4).