Photo by ISIPhotos.com
BY ADAM SERRANO
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.