Major League Soccer

Garber discusses playoffs, expansion in State of MLS address

Don Garber (ISIPhotos.com)

Photo by ISIPhotos.com


Don Garber outlined his visions for MLS in his annual state of the league addressed on Tuesday afternoon.

In a conference call with the media, commissioner Garber touched on a number of potential changes MLS today including expansion into New York City and the Southeast, the new Reserve League and much more.

The initial highlight of the State of MLS was the commissioner's slip that David Ferriera will be announced as the MLS MVP.  During the call, Garber stated that the MLS Cup will contain a player who will be involved an upcoming announcement. The MLS MVP will be announced on Friday. The FC Dallas midfielder was announced as a finalist several weeks ago along with Edson Buddle and Chris Wondolowski. 

Garber stated that, pending approval from the MLS Board of Governors, MLS rosters will expand to 30 in 2011, up from 24 this season. The roster spots will be available for players under the age of 24 and will not count against a team's salary cap.

2011 will also mark the return of MLS' reserve division. According to the commissioner, teams will be able to place players from their academies, those on trial and players, who hold the latter six roster spots in the reserve league in hopes of developing their own prospects.  

The commissioner also said teams will play 34 matches in 2011, but it was not yet known whether it will be a balanced schedule or an imbalanced one to enhance rivalries. Garber also announced that changes to the playoff format are expected.

Garber also addressed the playoffs, saying there may be changes to the number of teams that make the playoffs. Garber said that there is a possibility that the 2011 MLS Cup Final that will take place in the stadium of the higher-seeded finalist, while also dismissing any possibility of MLS ever eliminating the playoffs and crowning the team with the best record as league champion.

"We will never do away with playoffs," Garber said. "There is absolutely no reason to do that. I know that it exists in other soccer leagues, though not all. All have been around for hundreds of years, all that don't have the competition that we have. We will always have playoffs."

In terms of expansion, Garber announced that New York is on the top of the expansion list, with 2013 a potential season for the new team's arrival. The commissioner announced that there have been a number of conversations about a franchise in New York including conversations with the representatives of a prospective New York Cosmos franchise. Garber said there will be a focus on growing rivalries with more teams in a closer vicinity to one another.  The Red Bulls have stated that they are open to the possibility of a second team in the New York market.

Regarding expansion into the South, Garber saidt it was highly unlikely that when MLS is finished with expansion that there will be no teams in the South. The league has not had a team south of D.C. United since the folding of the Miami Fusion and the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 2001. Garber outlined Atlanta and Miami as just a pair of cities that the league is interested in expanding in. 

"We are very focused on local rivalries being a key driver in growing our clubs' relevance, and by growing local relevance, we believe that can translate into national relevance," said Garber. "Rivalries really do matter. While we have been very focused on broadening our footprint. We do believe we need to have more rivalries and that a second team in New York will help us do that.

"That being said, I can't imagine this will be a league, when all is said and done, that does not have teams in the South."

What are your thoughts on Commissioner Garber's comments? Like the idea of a second New York team? Relieved to hear that changes to the playoff format are being consdered?

Share your thoughts below.

  • fischy

    THeoretically, yes.

    Loophole? Hardly. MLS is trying to encourage the teams to bring in young, really talented foreigners. I think the league would be thrilled to see players like Messi, or even Keiran Richardson or Frederico Macheda.


  • Felix

    Leave the playoffs as they are, only 8 teams, but get rid of the Conference designations.

    As for expansion, Garber just confirmed what we already knew what was coming, the 20th team is the NY Cosmos. For a team in the South, does that mean 21 teams or more? Possible moving of another MLS franchise like Chivas USA, or dare say DC United (with their terrible stadium situation).


  • Rory's MLS E-book

    Not a bad idea. This country is huge, there’s no reason we can’t have 32 teams in 2 divisions.

    19 Montreal

    20 New York

    21 Miami

    22 Atlanta

    23 St. Louis

    24 San Antonio

    25 Sacramento

    26 Indianapolis

    27 Jacksonville (possibly as the #21 team if the NFL Jaguars leave town)

    28 Ottowa

    29 San Diego (if Chivas doesn’t move there first)

    30 Phoenix (indoor stadium?)

    31 Las Vegas (indoor stadium)

    32 Birmingham (imagine the cooperation possibilities with Birmingham City of the EPL)


  • rory's mls e-book

    And most of those divisions have teams dying out left and right because everyone wants to root for Man United or Chelsea. Give it twenty years and England will have no more then 6 divisions.


  • fischy

    Let’s see — bringing in fan bases in Georgia, Florida, perhaps San Diego and an Arizona team or maybe St. Louis….


    keeping scaryice as a fan.

    Hmm…whatcha gonna do, Garber?


  • giaco

    Garber out. You cannot have 1.0 management that is determined to stay 1.0 in a 2.0 world.

    That being said, a perfect example of this is the lack of ANY unified away support plans by the league that includes, teams and relevant supporter groups. This would include some sort of grievance policy and minimum expected outcomes and accountability for all parties. No, it wouldn’t be a blanket policy, something that should be mutable based on circumstance– but hey, they’ve looked the other way for this long, so why challenge the status quo even though now traveling support is very visible and will only increase with rivalry matches.

    To that point, it seems hapless for DG to say let’s focus on rivalries and intra-city derby’s but not actually do anything about ticket allotment or my aforementioned point on away support.

    His lip service needs to end. His time at the helm of MLS needs to end. Sorry Don, you’ve done this league a great service and we all thank you for that, but a wise man knows when his time is up, and it takes an even better man to do that.


  • fischy

    “As for Garber mentioning about changing the number of teams in the playoff, we will most likely see a decrease after this year’s fiasco. My guess is that there will be either 4 or 6 teams to make the playoffs.”


    I want whatever you’re smoking.

    Garber’s thinking about expanding the number of playoff teams as the league gets bigger — not decreasing the number pf playoff teams. First-round byes area real possibility,though teams would rather host more playoff games, not fewer.


  • fischy

    “a perfect example of this is the lack of ANY unified away support plans by the league that includes, teams and relevant supporter groups. This would include some sort of grievance policy and minimum expected outcomes and accountability for all parties. No, it wouldn’t be a blanket policy, something that should be mutable based on circumstance– ”


    I’m an educated guy– college degree,3 post-graduate degrees. I recognize all the words you used, but I haven’t the faintest clue what you’re talking about.


  • Kevin in NM

    Take your racist-lined rant elsewhere. The league would not have survived if it weren’t for Garber.


  • Ben

    Reserve league and roster expansion are both good things, I think. Still, it is moments like these when I wonder how these millionaires and billionaires became so. You want to expand MLS, how about filling the seats that already exist? Why is there such a drive to fill the South with a team? The US version of football is religion down there, so it not just a matter of correct marketing and thinking the previous owners failed on their own merits. Florida is a notoriously terrible sports market. The Devil Ray players were practically begging fans to show up, and they are a good team! The only reason the Heat draw is because of the glitz of this year, which will soon wear off, resulting in a half filled arena. People tend to like what other people like, whether for good reasons or silly reasons, so having unfilled stadiums on national TV does not encourage the casual or novice to stay on the channel. Anyhow, you might have guessed that MLS attendance irritates me.


  • Ben

    Also, don’t the Mexican and many South American leagues have playoffs? Seems to be a new/old world divide.


  • Tim M.

    I was talking about Vegas, but again if your going to stress that their should be a team in Atlanta before the Cosmos your an idiot.


  • Tim M.

    In his yearly statement he just said he would increase if anything, but wouldn’t decrease the no. of teams.


  • Ben

    Did I miss the part of the “cup competition” where it cannt be a playoff? The “cup competition” merely means that the competition is for a piece of silverware designated as a “cup,” just like Lord Stanley’s. It seems rather obvious that the structure of the “cup competitions,” at least after the initial group stage, are similar enough to be classified as playoffs.


  • dc1819

    We probably need to accept that there are going to be more playoff teams, or at best, the same number. I think the gripe people have with MLS playoffs is that the better teams throughout the year don’t get properly rewarded. And it’s not like a lower seeded team has to do too much to make it to MLS Cup. They just need to play three games, and it’s even possible to not win any of those games in regulation. That sucks. Since there are gonna be 20 teams in MLS in 2011, and it’s possible to have single table (not promotion/relegation of course, just elimination of conferences), why not something like this? 11 teams make the playoffs and are seeded 1 thru 11. Seeds 1 thru 5 get a bye, while teams 6 thru 11 play a 2 game aggregate goals series. So 3 series (6 v 11, 7 v 10, 8 v 9), with the winners advancing to play the next round. Then the 1 seed plays the remaining lower seed, etc. That will give 4 series in the next round of playoffs, which would be 2 game agg goals series. From there the semifinals would be 2 game agg goals series, to produce the two teams that would play in the MLS Cup Final. By doing this, the top 5 teams over the course of the regular season would be given an advantage for producing the goods over 34 games. Lower seeds will have to a) play more games in order to make it to the Final, and b) play more top teams along the way. This format would make it a lot more likely to get a top team into the semi’s and/ or Final. Plus, a team that makes it to the MLS Cup Final plays anywhere from 4 to 6 games (depending on seed) to make it to the Final. It just seems wrong that under the current format, and 8 seed can get hot (or lucky) at the end of the season over the course of only 3 games, and make it to the Final. Don’t we want the top teams making it into the Final? This way, it allows for a cinderella story to make it, but reduces the likelyhood that it would happen.


  • Felix

    Without relegation battles and a marginalized Champions League, going single table and scrapping the playoffs would leave little to root for. Halfway through the season, half the league would have little to play for – it would be like being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan in July.

    In your proposed system, unless you were close to first place, the season would be pointless for 4/5 of the league. Very, very boring.


  • Felix

    The average wage is higher in Mexico, the top-end/DP wages are higher in MLS.

    And I think some higher-profile Mexican players would like to play for a few years in the US. They could live a luxurious life, with a degree of public anomymity without the media scrutiny and make some big money while staying relatively close to their homeland. Not to mention the endorsement opportunities. Being in Chicago, I remember Blanco’s face in a good amount of ads, especially in predominantly Latino neighborhoods.

    It wouldn’t be for everyone, but for higher profile Mexican players, I think its a valid option.


  • Aaron

    St. Louis and Atlanta would be good additions along with another New York team, Miami has poor attendance in all their pro sports besides the Heat, Charlotte would be a better choice.


  • Va Hoo

    I think growing the league to as many teams as possible is the best idea, with the hope of creating as many regional rivalries as possible.

    Just some places (think what’s happenings in the Northwest with Seattle-Portland-Vancouver) are:

    Richmond, Va. and Balitmore (DCU and Philadelphia)

    St. Louis and Omaha (KC and Chicago)

    There’s a lot of other places, but bigger city isn’t always better, sometimes you want places where there’s nothing to do to build a fan base. These aren’t tiny populations either, just no media market. But if you do it right, think any cares Green Bay is where it is?

    As for the playoffs, this may sound crazy, but it’s my idea. I would have a play-off in the middle of the season, in the middle of the summer. 1. To maximize viewer ship in the middle of the summer when not much is going on and 2. Just to be different. Take the winners of each conference and give them automatic showing in the conference final at the end of the season and some title or shield.

    At the end of the season have a second playoff with the remaining teams in each conference, the winner of that tournament plays the mid-season winner in a best of 5 style conference final. (be it goal total or a best of 5 where you have pks after every game, I don’t know) and then you have one grand final to determine the MLS Champion.

    What say you?


  • giaco

    No prob fischy–The point was (and is) that a clear example of the antiquated 1.0 management we are getting in this now 2.0 league is that there is no league-wide plan for away supporters nor any grievance policy for when things go wrong. It is worse that there is no transparency and seemingly no accountability for when things are not handled properly on away days.

    Supporters have traveled since the league was started: and now those numbers are increasing every year and the rivalries are becoming more apparent. During the previous 10+ years issues related to away fan safety have been brought to the attention of Don Garber, league and team officials in several MLS markets. Those thoughts, actions, emails, calls, etc. have (mostly)fallen on deaf ears and it seems to continue to this day–despite the lip service paid on Don’s whistle stop tours. That simple fact alone is why change is needed.

    It is one of the primary examples of why the current trend in MLS oversight and support (from the league’s end) is failing–it is only elucidated further when the commissioner wants to move closer to the young urban male demographic by promoting supporters groups (although only if they’re all good boys and girls), promoting rivalry games(i.e. The Cascadian Triangle and what could develop on the East coast) and also local derbies (LA/Chivas and NJRB/Cosmos)–all while at the same time not confronting the associated issues and potential problems that come with them: worse yet, only paying lip service to them as well as marginalizing the examples from years past that have been brought to his attention.

    Hope that clears up what I meant a bit–if you’re interested in discussing this further, I’m sure Ives can figure out how to connect us without having to post emails.


  • Cavan

    I don’t get how you can put some of those up there in front of Baltimore. Some of those cities aren’t major league towns. Baltimore is and it’s as soccer mad as DC and Philadelphia.






  • Tim M.

    I can agree. A portion of higher profile Latino’s will want to play in MLS for the reasons you listed.

    The key is getting them to come over when their younger.


  • Tim M.

    WTF? Is your computer maid of brail moron?

    Colin Cowheard said…

    1. Forget the play-offs let use the BCS rankings

    2. Atlanta not a sports town children

    3. Pimped in Vegas they would be great for MLS


  • Ceez

    A team in NY, expansion into the South, change in number of teams in the playoffs…

    I’m not even paying attention to those changes. Don’t really care for them. I’m SUPER EXCITED about the return of the Reserve League and the expansion of the roster to 30 and the rule about players under 24. That sounds like a GREAT MOVE to me!!!!!


  • Mattmatumbo

    Wow, 30 players just like the old days (like what, 3 years ago?) when teams had an actual full roster to develop and use. This will be good for the league.


  • Ceez

    A LOT of the things you mentioned are either not feasible or WAY down the road. How about taking things one step at a time?


  • Seriously?

    Every game is intense when that game is seen to have meaning. In the early and middle part of the season, when both teams are seen as fighting for a chance to win the division, the games are intense, but if it’s late in the season, and one team is out of contention, the games aren’t the same. That’s what the league should be aiming for, making it so that as many games as possible have meaning. Expanding the playoffs won’t accomplish that, in my opinion.


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