By IVES GALARCEP
During a week that saw the strength of the Kansas City market for Major League Soccer, commissioner Don Garber raised the stakes for the booming league by announcing on Wednesday night that MLS will expand to 24 teams by the year 2020.
Garber laid out the ambitious plan during an interview with ESPN at halftime of the MLS All-Star Game, and revealed the league would add four more teams in the next seven years to go along with the current 19 teams, and the soon-to-arrive New York City FC.
“The league’s going to expand by four teams by the end of the decade. By 2020. A lot of cities are interested. Expansion has been a big driver of the success of our league. The diversity of our ownership group, lots of new energy, so we’ve got some work to do.”
Garber also addressed the idea of moving weak and underperforming teams out of current markets and into new markets. He made it clear MLS isn’t planning on uprooting any existing teams.
“We don’t look at some of the challenges we have as things we can solve with moving,” Garber said. “We need to figure out what we can do to solve those teams, and then add new markets so we can have new fans and new excitement.”
“There’s no plan whatsoever to move any clubs,” Garber added. “What we’ve seen is expansion has driven a lot of success. We have new owners that have great vision, that are going to diversify the way we think.
“More jobs by the way,” Garber added. “Four more teams. Hundreds and hundreds of new jobs, as opposed to just replacing those jobs. Getting player development going on at those academies. Getting more fans. Growing our footprint. Raising our popularity and interest, which we need as we go and try to achieve that goal of being one of the top leagues.”
Garber pointed to the impressive success currently being enjoyed by Sporting Kansas City, a team that once was considered one of the league’s struggling clubs, but a team that is now thriving since an ownership change and rebranding.
“Many people wanted to move this team,” Garber said. “This is a bright shining star of the Major League Soccer.”
What do you think of this development? Excited to hear MLS is aggressively trying to expand, or worried the league is moving too fast?
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