4
Dec

State of the League: Could MLS change schedule to align with Europe?

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NEW YORK – MLS commissioner Don Garber hears the repeated calls for his league to move its schedule in line with the rest of the world. He just isn’t ready to heed them yet.

The prospect of moving to a so-called winter schedule remains a topic for debate in executive circles around the league. It is a complex transition poised to alter how the league functions and where it generates the revenue required to bolster its bottom line. The corresponding financial considerations play a large role in the process as MLS plots its future and wonders whether it can increase its standing by altering its calendar.

“As a league, we have in the past looked – and we will continue to look – at a potential calendar shift,” Garber said during his State of the League speech on Tuesday. “We went through a fairly comprehensive process this year to see whether we could manage a schedule change.”

Garber subsequently sketched out the working concept as it stands now. The season would start in mid-to-late February and run through the end of May before taking a break in June in accordance with the end of the European season. The second portion of the schedule would start in mid-to-late July and run through mid-December.

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4
Dec

MLS commissioner Don Garber lobbies for Miami, Atlanta expansion teams

imageDon Garber gives his “State of the League” address to media members (Image: Kyle McCarthy/FOXSoccer.com)

NEW YORK – Orlando created a long-awaited outpost in the Southeast when it join MLS last month. If MLS commissioner Don Garber has his way, then Atlanta and Miami will soon emerge as certainties for two of the remaining three expansion slots over the next few years and redress the vacancy in that part of the country for good.

Those deals aren’t done yet, though. Both hopefuls must still overcome considerable hurdles in order to seal their places as the 22nd and 23rd teams in the league at some point in the short- or medium-term, according to Garber.

“I don’t want to handicap them, per se,” Garber said during his annual State of the League address on Tuesday. We’re making progress in both of those markets. I wouldn’t say we’re close in either of those markets. … You think you’re at the finish line, the finish line moves and it takes a year to get something done. It’s generally facility-related.”

Most of the attentional naturally falls on the David Beckham-led project in Miami. Beckham holds an option to invest in a MLS side for a reported $25 million (one perhaps set to expire by the end of the year unless a mutually agreeable accord is reached), but his proposal for a side in South Florida must pass through the Board of Governors before he can exercise it.

imageIs the heat on? David Beckham is looking to bring an MLS team to Miami, possibly with help from LeBron James. (Image: Reuters)

Garber confirmed that juncture isn’t here quite yet after making several visits to the area recently. Beckham and business partner Simon Fuller continue to search for potential stadium sites (the port of Miami is mooted, while SunLife Stadium could offer a temporary solution until a stadium closer to downtown is constructed) and vet potential financial backers (including Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure) to satisfy the conditions set forth by the league.

“In Miami, we can’t do anything until we finalize a stadium plan,” Garber said. “We have a great guy in David (Beckham) – he is a very bright guy, he is very focused and he is a great businessperson. He has a great business partner in Simon Fuller, the founder of American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. If we can put them together with a great facility plan and another economic partner, I think we can have a formula for success. We’re not there yet, but we hope to get there soon.”

Similar sentiments apply to the possibilities in Atlanta, but the stadium situation is at least a bit clearer. Prospective investor/operator Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons are working with the City of Atlanta on a proposed $1 billion, retractable roof stadium to replace the Georgia Dome by 2017. Those plans also include the prospect of fielding a MLS side in the new venue with some inventive measures required to reduce the anticipated 65,000 capacity to a more suitable size.

“We have finalized our stadium situation there,” Garber said. “We’ve been working on a downsizing technology that we think will be unique and will be the only one of its kind anywhere in the world. We have to continue to work hard with Atlanta to see if this whole project makes sense for them. But I’m encouraged by the discussions (that are ongoing).”

As Garber sagely noted, these discussions often unfold over a protracted period of time. Other cities such as Minneapolis, San Antonio and St. Louis – all mentioned as potential expansion cities on a corresponding map – will monitor these talks carefully as they assess the landscape. The path to a place in MLS remains fixed even as those discussions continue, according to Garber.

“It starts with the ownership group and it moves from there to a downtown stadium,” Garber said.

3
May

MLS ready to welcome back ex-USA star Robbie Rogers

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By FOXSoccer.com

Robbie Rogers is a man in high demand.

Rogers, who earned 18 caps for the United States men’s national team, announced his retirement from soccer after officially coming out gay in February. Earlier in the week, Rogers trained with the Los Angeles Galaxy prompting many to speculate a possible comeback to Major League Soccer this season.

During an event at Columbus Crew stadium on Thursday, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber expressed his desire to see Rogers back in MLS.

“We’d love to see Robbie back in the league — regardless of announcement he made in February,” said Garber. “He has to figure out his future, and I hope that future is going to be in Major League Soccer.”

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1
Dec

FOX Soccer sits down with Major League Soccer’s commissioner Don Garber to discuss the MLS Cup Final and what the future holds for MLS.