Major League Soccer

Garber hints at possible cap on expansion


Could MLS be nearing the end of its expansion era? The commissioner thinks its possible.

In an interview with Forbes on Wednesday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber stated that he believed the current round of expansion to 28 teams could be the league’s last.

While discussing the success of recent expansion teams such as Orlando City and New York City FC (rated 3rd and 5th most valuable in MLS) as well as Atlanta United’s reported 22,000 season tickets already sold and Minnesota United FC’s blazing ticket sales, Garber discussed how the growth of the league has evolved from earlier days.

“That’s a far cry from what we used to see in the early days of MLS,” Garber stated, “when it was a real struggle to find people who really believed in the opportunity. Now there are many more cities and many more investors than we have available opportunities. And that allows us to be very careful and strategic in how we manage what could be the final round of expansion for Major League Soccer.”

The idea that MLS could cap expansion at 28 teams is not a new one, but Garber’s latest mention comes at a time when the list of interested markets is as long as it has been in some time.  Sacramento heads the list for the 25th expansion team, with Garber having already stated “We hope and really we expect Sacramento will be one of the next four.”

If MLS does settle on a hard cap of 28 teams, that will make the race for essentially the final three slots  a crowded one. Markets such as St. Louis, Detroit, and San Antonio are considered top contenders, while San Diego, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Phoenix have also been mentioned as possibilities.

Atlanta and Minnesota are set to join MLS in 2017, with LAFC joining in 2018. Miami is expected to be the 24th expansion team, though a timetable for Miami’s arrival is still unclear.

  • Old School

    Garber has already gone back to MLS 1.0 and on his word about clubs being required to have stadiums in place or realistic plans to gain entry to MLS.

    So long as these clubs are paying expansion fee entries that is being dispersed to the rest of the league as revenue/profit I simply don’t take him at his word.


  • Ivan

    I heard Ibrahimovic was coming to play for the Miami ‘expansion franchise’.

    I had to, too easy!

    But the Don knows everything! He is the wise and mighty one and his word is the law of the land!!

    All hail the Don, franchises, artificial turfs, playoffs, closed off system, and the future top 10 league in world football!!


  • Beto

    the next commissioner can lead MLS from 28 to 32 via promoting teams up and eventually relegating down. and work on expanding that salary cap. good work don, you can leave whenever you would like.


  • colininmt

    I don’t understand the hate for Garber. Does MLS have arcane player acquisition rules? Sure. Could the salary cap be higher? Definitely. Are the various player financing mechanisms clear? No.

    But look at the growth that’s occurred under his watch. Soccer specific stadiums in almost every market. World class DP signings. Improved academies and youth development. A different owner for every team. Ambitious, wealthy new owners. The value of franchises has increased by 400% since 2008. Double the number of teams with multiple attractive options for expansion. Increased tv and sponsorship revenue. Increased attendance and tv ratings. And the list goes on

    The MLS isn’t a top league and likely won’t be in the timeframe Garber has indicated. But it’s improving every year and he deserves at least some credit for that.


    • Scott

      Agreed. Also, we should keep in mind that the commish is an extension of the common thought process of his employer…the team owners. Not to say that every step has been the best, but the league is doing well under his tenure. USL is also doing nicely of late, partly due to the involvement of MLS. Love him, or hate him, the league is growing exponentially. As it starts to flat line, the owners will replace him for the next phase.


    • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

      Whiners gonna whine
      And good gracious do they whine. All the time…and non stop.

      You have to realize, there are more that want to see pro soccer in this country fail than succeed. Whether it is because they are Euro soccer lovers or just don’t want it to be mainstream here for some illogical reason, doesn’t matter. Add on to that MLS is never going to be Pro/Rel, biggest clubs always win. You have all the ingredients for a whiners buffet.

      Why hate Garber? You answered your own question. This success will not stop and the US will be a top and then THE top league in a very short time period. You can believe me or believe the whiners that said the league won’t be around in 5 years, for 20 years now.


    • TheFrenchOne

      That was my first thought too when I read the comments last night: What’s with the hate? Under his leadership, MLS has grown from 10 to 20 teams, with many other cities lining up. You can complain all you want about discovery rules and the likes, but the league is growing and only getting stronger. Yeah, it sucks to watch Beckham/Miami be allowed to thrash about and continue to be given extensions when Sacramento seems ready to go yesterday, but I’ll give Garber some latitude when I take the 30,000 ft view of the league and see steady progress.


    • johnnyrazor

      People hate the boss, most commissioners in American pro sports are not very well liked. Especially, those that stick around for a long time.


  • shortpocketsnumbertwo

    So with 28 teams is that 40 regular season games (13×2 in conference plus 14 out of conference)? When you add in MLS Cup and Playoffs, hard to see that the depth to make play interesting exists.


  • Adam M.

    Capping MLS at 28 teams invites a second league to eventually try to unseat it as the premier league in the country (imagine if Europe only had 28 first division teams). There will be plenty of top markets left untouched (including many with NFL and MLB teams), and breakthroughs in a larger cities without a downtown MLS stadium (e.g., Philly, Chicago) could happen. My ideal would be two-20 team tables with pro/rel into a 20 team second division. So 60 teams under the MLS banner.


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