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Garber discusses playoff changes, security issues with MLS supporters



TORONTO – MLS commissioner Don Garber addressed various concerns with MLS fans Sunday morning during the 2010 Supporters Summit. Several issues were discussed during a roundtable held with fan representatives from all over the league.

Garber fielded questions from both the crowd of supporters — every team in the league appeared to be represented — and a pair of moderators, Canadian media members Jason DeVos and Nigel Reed.

With Canada taking a frontseat to a number of the discussions, Garber touched on the often-mentioned issue of promotion and relegation in the league, hinted at playoff changes, including the possibility of adding more teams, and some of the challenges facing the league.

"Our biggest challenge today, having grown a lot in our 15th year and feeling good about where we are, is how we take the passion that you folks have taught the general soccer fan about, and how we just continue to grow that and so we have something more special in our stadiums," he said.

As the season concludes this evening, Garber touched on the conference alighment and playoff setup, indicating that the conference format would remain intact in an effort to boost the visibility in each team's market with more trophies available.

"As we continue to be more and more relevant in our markets we need special moments, and that championship trophy and victory was a special moment for [the Rapids]," he said.

However, while the conference final format could live on, Garber hinted that an announcement would be made during tonight's MLS Cup match on television.

"Clearly this concept of having two Western teams in your Eastern Conference final, we're not dummies, we know that's probably not something you want to replicate.

"We will announce a bit on ESPN and TSN2 tonight, a tweak to our system, and that will change it a bit so that we have less of a likelihood of the situation that we have this year. We'll perhaps have more teams qualifying in, maybe even an opportunity for some teams to play into the playoffs," Garber said.

Discussion moved to some of the issues confronting fans across the country — ticket prices, traveling fans, and youth development. Garber announced that the Academy teams of Vancouver, Toronto, and eventually Montreal would be allowed to join and play in the U.S. Soccer Federation Development Academy.

Garber mentioned that one of the biggest concerns facing the league was the security of traveling fans, admitting that the numbers had grown faster than the league could keep up. Stadiums around the nation approach traveling supporters differently, at times displacing season ticket holders, and the commissioner was emphatic that this would be solved.

"We absolutely will establish rules in our stadiums to designate a certain area for traveling fans to be seated," he said. "It was never a problem two years ago. It's a problem or opportunity now, and we've got to manage through that."

As the debate when on, Garber was a asked about both promotion-relegation and switching the schedule around to accommodate the FIFA calender. He didn't dismiss either possibility, but said that both are very far down the road.


  1. You know, I hadn’t thought of this option…but it makes a LOT of sense. It is a playoff format from day one and would/could be used as the ‘champ’ with ML champ going to the Supporter Shield.

    Before Ives & others point to Mexico also having playoffs, I don’t think they have a Mexico Cup, though they do participate in the Copa de libertadores the South AM playoffs.

  2. Are you Don Garber’s mother or just someone who likes to compulsively insult people who he doesn’t know?
    Nice on the community college comment.
    Based on your attitude, I’m willing to bet that most of the people you’re attacking here have more education than you do.

  3. People of my ilk? Way to descend to infantile personal attacks. Been following all of my posts to see when I use periods?

    I’m perfectly capable of understanding abstract ideas. I happen to believe that his approach on this particular approach benefits neither the long or short term.

    I happen to think that overall, Garber has done a fine job. Having issues with people thinking in gray instead of black or white?


  4. NOt crazy about the idea of more teams in the playoffs. Makes the season even longer, waters down the quality of the playoffs, and renders the regular season a bit more useless.

  5. Heres what makes derby games so special joe; they rarely happen. If you play them every week (exaggeration) they lose meaning and competition. I dont want to play Montreal or Columbus 3 or 4 times a year, it just gets boring. But if we play twice and lose both or win both, it keeps us in anticipation. With this new roster rule of adding 6 players from the academy it opens up potential. Not every team will be amazing or develop amazing kids but this is the best way to go about it.

    Thats not to mention the fact that 2 seasons ago we DID NOT have a single table format and TFC was forced to play some semi professionals and a scout as we had no less than 7 players at international games. What your talking about is a sceduling problem, not a single table problem.

  6. Garber, do this: Single table, balanced schedule (it make for the most fair schedule), top team wins Supporters Shield. Top 8 teams make playoffs. They are split into two groups based on points. Seeds 1, 8, 3, 6 are in the Hunt Group, while Seeds 2, 7, 4, 5 are placed in the Rothenberg Group (Bracket format in each group). Winners of each group meet in the MLS Cup Final. It’s easy for fans to understand, and it makes the Supporters Shield truly special. Instead of being “just another special moment” Let’s make teams work for special moments, instead of making it easier for teams to have them. This is a professional competitive sports league. Let’s keep it that way.

  7. Do not expand the playoff teams! Make the Supporters Shield and the season important by putting value into the trophy. Have the winner have home field for 2 games against the same team (aggregate).

    You can also have an Eastern team have a 2 game home field against a west team that has a better record. This places more value on regular season and keeps East Coast West coast interest along w/ playoffs.

  8. If the league considers going to an Apertura/Clausura format, they could probably find a way to satisfy the purists and enhance rivalries. One half of the year could be used to play some form of balanced schedule, with each team playing the others. Not twice. Just once. A 19-game season. Single table — best record wins the title.

    In the other (shorter) season (say, late August thru October) the teams could focus on their division rivals, playing them twice, and the other division in the conference once. Playoffs could determine conference champs and then a league champion for that season.

    I think American fans could get used to this format. I’m pretty sure there are other leagues that do something similar.

  9. I hope they aren’t serious about the extra playoff teams. He mentioned that they would go to 10 teams with a play in format for the lower level qualifiers. Please don’t. I am tired of teams with poor records after a FULL season getting in and having a chance to win the trophy on the basis of 3 rounds.

  10. Single table, points winner crowned champ. To make up for lack of playoffs and income generated I would suggest MLS taking USOC seriously.

  11. If it seems like its changing constantly that’s because it is. Please everyone who is posting here (but didn’t actually watch the summit) take a basics of management course at your local community college. Everything that the league and Garber does will start to make more sense. I used to think that Garber was slow when he answered questions. Now I know that he’s trying to answer fan questions that come from a misguided point of view without insulting them. It’s like he’s explaining where babies come from to a young child when he answers fan questions.

  12. If you actually listened to the summit you would know that his “special moments” or more for long term value than short term. You don’t care, but I’m sure there are young impressionable kids somewhere who liked seeing their team lift a trophy. It’s about creating long term value and goodwill. These are abstract ideas that people of your ilk can’t easily understand. Period.Period.period.Stop.stop…..stop.(What’s the deal with you and periods).

  13. All Garber said was he’s considering maybe adding more playoff teams, not that’s he wants it. When your running a business it’s smart to consider as many of your options as possible and keep an open mind. I think most you guys posting in here don’t give Garber enough credit, quite frankly, I think it’s because you don’t understand the nature of business.

  14. 1. Single Table–a terrible idea for the league at this time. Here’s why:
    –you play single table and Seattle-Portland-Vancouver only play each other twice (and only 1 home game each). DCU-NYRB only play a home-away series. Ditto with Philly-DC or Philly-NY. If a Cosmos NY club gets added, they play NYRB only 2x. Right now the league gets a lot of value out of regional rivalries. Yep, that creates some inequities. But right now, that isn’t that important.
    –the rationale that a single table creates a balanced playing schedule and fair matchups ignores the reality of the league. In a league with a salary cap (so you can’t just go and buy more players) and where we aren’t Barcelona or Real Madrid, it makes a huge different WHEN you play LAG. Landon Donovan is probably the league’s best player. Isn’t is an unfair advantage to play LAG when Donovan is with the NT? Or at a WC training camp? There are probably half a dozen teams in the league where timing is everything as to when you play them–if you face a full side or not. And no, I’m not talking about the breaks you get from suspensions or injuries–everyone has to deal with those. I’m talking about the basic premise of a single table (balanced and equal competition) can’t happen anyway in MLS b/c of the dependence of a bunch of sides on a few critical players who end up being unavailable for NT duty or loans.

    2. I love that the playoffs are now much harder to get in. I can see only one really compelling reason for expanding them:
    –if structured the right way, it might provide a real benefit to teams with high seedings. Let me give you an example….suppose the top 4 seeds all get a first round bye. Next 8 teams all have to play a match mid-week to advance. The surviving 4 teams then have to play with little recovery time on the road against a seeded team. For a one-game match, that provides a significant advantage now to the higher seed.
    –but other than a format like I just said (or some variation) I prefer fewer teams (8 is a good size, I could even live with 6 in which the top 2 get byes in the first round and as long as they don’t have to sit out 2 weeks) the remaining 4 play a one-game series to advance to play the top 2 seeds.

  15. The FA and other European leagues didn’t have any other professional sports leagues to compete with for fans’ entertainment dollars or sports media attention either.

  16. As a fan of the NBA & NHL, 8 teams for those sports I think are too much, not really an accomplishment making the playoffs (plus they have more teams). Either get rid of this stupid conf. because nobody cares about meaningless trophies or make it the 2 top teams in each or top 2 from each plus 2 wildcards with the #1 seeds gettin byes. Why not award the club with the best record with a bye instead of risk getting knocked out before the semi’s. I’m tryin’ to like the MLS with Philly gettin a team, but I see them harming it more than being a better league.

  17. Why not just rename the conferences like the NHL used to have? The Lamar Hunt and Philip Anschutz conferences etc.

    Also NO MORE PLAYOFF TEAMS!! 8 is the perfect amount!

  18. I found the Canadian issues probably the most intriguing of the whole conversation. Especially, addressing the season tix prices in Toronto and the counting Canadians and Americans as domestic players together.

    I especially liked the subtle jab of the Colorado fan towards his owner. Obviously thought that the owner of the Rapids is more invested in his EPL team than his MLS team. Garber didnot exactly come out and disagree with him.

  19. 1. supporters shield is the most prestigious cup/award, imo.

    2. the payoffs are fun. we should keep them. 10 teams sounds about right. in two years all the squads in the playoffs will have winning records.

    3. of course mls is making this up as they go along. the league is in it’s 15th year. i wonder what the FA was doing in their 15th year… my guess is probably tweaking a few things. It’s good that garber and co take it upon themselves to act in a fairly speedy manner when things need to evolve for growth. as far as sports leadership goes, i can’t think of another league that listens to their fans as well as MLS.

    4. there won’t be relegation/promotion in at least 30 years. let’s all chill out on that question for the moment, eh?

    just my 2 cents.

  20. Yeah, I don’t want more playoffs teams either, definitely no playoff to get into the playoffs. I think it should be 4 teams from each conference, like it was before, with none of the crossover bull. You cant keep trying to do both, if we aren’t goin single table, we need to do the proper conference playoff system.

  21. Exactly, right when the league is on the brink of having a reasonable ratio of playoff teams for the first time in league history they’re going to screw it up? Maybe when the league hits 20+teams this would be a good idea.

  22. I agree, I think they should keep the number of playoff spots the same. I think only teams with winning records deserve a chance to be champion

  23. Who is likely to sell more tickets, a team who “hasn’t made the playoffs in 8 years” or a team who has “made the playoffs 5 years in a row”. It’s all about the $$$.

  24. So more clubs specifically poorer clubs have access to the leagues most prestigious cup and that makes more meaningful moments?

    Give me a break with that argument. Dilution doesn’t add value Garber Fu*king hell.

    Give me a single table and add freaking value to the Supporter Shield. That should be our most prestigious trophy but isn’t because they’re placating to these supposed average fans who aren’t the backbone of what I’d growing this league.

  25. This guy — this league — always sounds like they’re making it up as they go along, like they’re steering around cones instead of aiming for a long-term goal. Rigging the system so more teams have more “special moments” ? Play-in games? Oy. Why not just keepo expanding the playoffs so everybody gets to feel good about themselves? Make the regular season mean something! The playoffs in each conference should be like a step-ladder, with the higher-seeded team given the home game: 4 at 3, winner at 2, then winner at 1.

  26. Sounds like maybe top three from each conference make the playoffs, and then the next 4 overall in a pair of play in games? You may end up with one team from the West in the EC final but not two. So this year it would have been Seattle/Chicago in the east play in and Colorado/San Jose in the west.


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