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MLS owners approve expansion to 28, Miami’s new stadium site, and more

Photo by Jason Mowry/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Jason Mowry/USA Today Sports

After a meeting of Major League Soccer’s Board of Governors on Saturday, the league announced 28 clubs as a new goal for future expansion.

“There is no shortage of demand for MLS expansion teams,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber, “and we believe the opportunity exists to grow beyond our current plans.”

The league’s current plan has called for 24 teams by 2020. Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Minnesota will all have started league play by 2018, and news out of Miami this week supports the notion that David Beckham’s group will secure a team sometime soon.

“We are very supportive of Miami Beckham United’s plans to locate their stadium in the City of Miami’s Overtown neighborhood,” Garber added.  “Their vision for a world-class venue within the urban core that is accessible by mass transportation is impressive, and we believe it will be an important part of the continued revitalization of the area.  We look forward to working with David and his partners to finalize plans to bring Major League Soccer to Miami.”

Alongside the news on expansion, MLS released a number of items decided upon by the Board of Governors in their meeting on Saturday.

The league will take a two-week break during next year’s Copa America Centenario tournament from June 2 to June 14, 2016.

MLS All-Star Players unable to compete in the league’s mid-season showcase will now be prohibited from playing in his next MLS game. If the player is declared medically for the match following the All-Star Game, he will still be eligible for bonuses or option triggers.

A tweak will be made to this year’s successful Decision Day format, with all matches on the last day of the 2016 regular season being played on the same day at the same time.

If a game in 2016 or beyond is abandoned before its conclusion, it will only be postponed rather than cancelled or declared final. MLS’ previous policy stated that any match that made it to the 76th minute of play could stand as final.

Hydration breaks will be expected to occur more frequently in the 2016 season, as the threshold has been lowered from 89.6 Wet Bulb Globe Temperature to just 82 WBGT.

Along with these announcements, the MLS Board of Directors discussed further investment in club rosters, changes to Targeted Allocation Money and the possible use of real-time video replays.


  1. More teams means more youth academies.
    I don’t see relegation ever happening. It’d be interesting for sure but will never happen.

    More likely is an old NL / AL type set up where teams play their league almost exclusively and heighten the natural close rivalries.. Then play a few exotic interleague games a year.
    I’m in.

  2. Great posts from the comment section. Pro / Reg will happen. There has to be interest in all 40 MLS Division 1 teams. At that point. Once interest is secured, no matter how sucky the teams are that season…. will TV ratings really soar, esp. for promotion / relegation games.

    Only THEN, does MLS 1 & MLS 2 make sense. And then, again only then, will ratings for Promotion / Relegation really skyrocket. As it is now … let’s say from 24 MLS teams (and 4 of them playing relegation vs… lets say 4 USL sides doesn’t make sense.) For one, MLS owns everyone’s contract.

    Therefore, 40 MLS team… or to make it even quicker. 28 or even 32 teams who have hardcore fans… that could get split into 17 MLS 1 teams and 15 MLS 2 teams.

    Actually… even with out Pro/Rel, MLS could split 14 MLS 1 teams and MLS 2 teams.

    • Pro/Rel will never happen in MLS.

      28 teams is a no brainer. 32 will be the same very soon.

      The fact that the league will be one of the biggest in the world is a debate over when. When, that is the only question.

      • Biggest, most fans, yes it will, soon-ish even, maybe 20 years from now.. Best, doubtful, quality on the field is too far behind other leagues. MLS is just entertainment, no more no less.. P/R, you don’t know that stop acting like you do. It may make the league more entertaining, and profitable in the long run. It is a legitimate debate.

      • Nick I respectfully disagree, it is a great business model, as is proven year in year out around the world.

  3. The good news for the LA Galaxy and for other teams that bought down a salary using allocation money, is that more GarberBucks (TAM) money is on the way for 2016. Without it, he Galaxy faced some major personal changes due to the salary cap and buying down Omar Gonzales salary to fit in Dos Santos as the third DP. It also allowed teams like Columbus and Portland to keep it’s mid tier players.

    • so you’re reading “changes to the Targeted Allocation Money” comment as “more money to all the clubs coming soon?” You sure about that? I hope you’re right, but it could also mean “the monkeyshines the LA Galaxy pulled off will be stopped and all TAM from here on out will be parceled out year by year, rather than in five year chunks, to be spent at the club’s discretion,” which would mean no money to keep Omar.

      More than likely, though, is that MLS and it’s owners will do whatever it can to keep the language regarding TAM as murky and obscure as possible, so that it can continue to sprinkle extra dollars where it likes, and approve player movements as it likes, without any hard fast rule to prevent it.

  4. I have no problem with a 30 team league as long as they can get the teams involved in player development in their markets. On the whole the MLS has done an excellent job over the past 7 years.

  5. FC Cincy owner Carl Lindner is a multibillionaire. His stated goal is MLS. Garber mentioned cities that don’t even have a usl team yet but will help in national tv ratings and market share. Watch out for Cincinnati as well.


    • Don’t even think of putting a team in Detroit. Detroit is a city that is falling down around it’s own ears. The only professional team that receives any support in that city is the Red Wings.

  7. NFL=32 Teams
    NBA=30 Teams
    MLB=30 Teams
    NHL=30 Teams

    American Rugby League=14 Teams
    National Lacrosse League=9 Teams

    It;s kind of obvious that if you want to get the good nationwide coverage of the sport and the equivalent TV ratings, you will need to have at least 30 Teams. While 28 teams should be an interim goal, eventually the league should expand to between 30-34 teams.

    I also think that with a population of 38Million, Canada could support as many as 10 first Division Teams.

      • What owner is going to vote to allow teams to be relegated to a lower level? They lose money if that happens and since they make the rules, that will never happen

    • I understand why you are saying this, but I really think that the causation part of your argument is a bit flawed. I honestly think that tradition, popularity among casual fans drives tv ratings an revenue. MLS could go to 38 teams tomorrow and the average ratings are going to jump that much. What does drive ratings, are casual viewer interests, people who understand the sport (that has jumped significantly as soccer is the most played sports among under 14 for the past 15 + years), product quality (as in entertainment quality — appealing in event viewing while not being too manufactured/crap).

      The good news is that I think viewership is growing and will continue to grow because the potential soccer market in the US (as people who have played/coached the game and event viewers continues to grow). Soccer is a LONG investment as long as it is managed correctly (which, aside from a few things Garber and his crew does, is well managed in the US in terms of MLS growth).

      That being said, I truly think Garber and his ilk see MLS as a viable product in a baseball model: 30-34 teams in 2 leagues/conferences, with linked farm teams (USL & PDL & academy teams). I honestly think that he is not thinking relegation while he is at the helm. I also think he plans to ignore NASL with the hopes it dies a slow death and/or he picks the best teams/markets (with the exception of Cosmos).

      For me, I think an eventual model should be 40-45 teams geographically spread throughout the US/Canada in a MLS1/MLS2 relegation model with an USL, a PDL and academy team. 30/35 in the US and 3-6 in Canada.

      • Local ratings are always aggregated into regional and National ratings. And it’s national ratings that determine ad value and from that market rights value. When the MLS started with 10 teams, it’s national ratings were pretty small, but the were very decent in some local and regional markets.

        The holy grail of sports marketing is to have the best teams in the largest markets. This usually pulls in the largest ratings. It also helps to have the best athletes of the sport in those markets. Having David Beckham come to LA and win the MLS Cup was the genesis of MLS 2.0 and changed the League. Like having Sandy Koufax and2 Don Drysdale and later Fernando Valenzuela and Hideo Nomo launch the Dodgers to international prominence in an American sport. The NFL were not thrilled with the AFL (both had their own TV contracts on ABC and CBS) that ate into their TV ratings and rights money. When the Green Bay Packers won the first Super Bowl as expected what was a shock was that the Chiefs ratings on one network were better than the Packers on the other. In Soccer, this still happens when Univision outdraws ESPN for the same game. same markets, but different language.

        The ratings for the big four sports in the US were and are, when the biggest markets have the best teams and preferably the biggest stars. But big games make the big stars. and it was Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr, who made Green Bay Packers a household name and a football Giant in a small market town. But even the big media markets are merged into an aggregate and it serves the MLS well to have an aggregate of many markets, big and small to spread out the average when the teams in the big markets flounder. To have a lot of teams means you will have more viewers in more towns. All of the big US sports know that.

        The US is a lot different than Europe, we are bigger in population and land, wealthier on the average than any other country, more technological advance and more importantly have more “sports dollars” than anyone else. We are more multicultural too. The US is the second largest spanish speaking country IN THE WORLD. We are leaders and not followers. So it’s no surprise when the MLS goes to the tries-and-true franchise system rather than a myriad of individual ownerships, expand to MORE teams instead of staying at the FIFA recommended 20. We are not stretching the envelope, we tear it up. We are the sleeping Giant, the 800lb Gorilla, the Elephant in the room as it applies to sport and especially soccer. And while the “mordida” is the accepted tradition in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, and taken to new heights by the international administators, it’s is not here. I think FIFA knows that now. We will not stop at enforcing rules either, we will start making them for the better.

        I think 15-20 years down the line, soccer fans in the US will talk of the big contract handed out to the stars of the league, and people will say “Remember when baseball players only got 250 million for 5 years and people though it was a lot but Ronaldo and Messi only got 20 mill a year”

      • Eventually Cuba will get an expansion team. It will be years from now, and will be in Havana!

        It will make the first three-country league!

    • Nice, someone making sense. This is also why pro/rel won’t happen unless there are 70-80 viable top level teams. In this country which is far larger and more populous then any in Europe we need more than 20 teams to cover the map and you need to cover the map to get decent ratings.

      At best (in terms of adhering to traditional soccer conventions) I see it getting to 36-40 teams with the huge chunks of empty territory in the southeast filled in. Then it will split to two self contained conferences of 16-20 teams to reduce travel, promote rivalries, and allow for a true regular season champ in each. The playoffs remain to settle who is the best nationally. Even that might be a stretch since it would keep LA from playing NY during the regular season and they tend to be powerhouse teams and markets once a sport matures and demand evens out.

      • going back to pro/rel, even if the popularity of the sport reached such heights that 70-80 teams would be possible you’d still need to break up the franchise system to allow it to happen. I just don’t see it.

      • fair enough but with “70-80 teams” a pro/rel would still be possible and beneficial; just ‘apply the bell curve’ to the teams, the top 30 get to stay and be MLS 1, the next XX teams are MLS 2 and perhaps have an MLS 3 but i think 2 would be fine. essentially the teams falling in the mlx 2 initially would be the lower level teams (“Ottawa Otters, Topeka Tulips, El Paso Pesos” etc) with smaller stadiums and etc so they would naturally fit into that level. they would then have to perform well, yet only relative to the other mid to lower level teams, thus making it easier to do well (i.e. not having to face the relative ‘Chelseas’ or ‘Uniteds’) to finish top 2 or 3 to move up. moving up gives your club substantially more spending money for players, training grounds etc. so by the end of the year hopefully the team stays up. all the while they are looked at publicly as the newly promoted cinderella (march madness style?) which gains them viewership. thus, even if they move back down to MLS 2 they have considerably more money, hopefully a few better players still and should be able to win again soon and move back up (the same for the rest of the teams in ‘MLS2’)

        the point being, no matter how many teams there are, it’s always still possible. it’s just going to take the owner to switch perspectives and believe ‘if we give the fans this system they “want” they will love and support ($$$) our product more so let’s finally switch to pro/rel now that we have 40 teams’ or whatever.

        i dont blame the owners for doing what they feel is best, i just feel that pro/rel is best, personally, and wish they would eventually agree with me

  8. The All-Star Game is a waste of time – time that is extra-precious in a year when the Copa requires a long break. Exhibition games in the midst of your regular season shoots giant holes in your credibility.

    • Not sure why they damage credibility. MLS teams usually field reserve squads and there’s no reason not to take advantage of thousands of Eurosnobs willing to pay big bucks for these games.

      • Eh…. seems a rather random triviality to be concerned with. Nothing whatsoever to do with hindering or promoting the “soul” or character of a league. That is born on the field, can not be manufactured, marketed…. it takes lots of time, long standing rivalries, history. Plenty to do better, but the league is making progress. I’d counter by saying trying to pre-fab a duplicate of other leagues in other countries would be akin the the pyramids or Eiffel tower in Vegas. Have to do it our own unique way and at some point, the annoying differences will feel more like beloved traditions.

      • The sweet sweet American way of soccer. We build it our way, we expand it large and then we kiss it goodbye. Yep, that is an American tradition of growing soccer leagues.

      • The American way of soccer: Build like other American sports leagues, always planned to expand large and then get kissed goodbye because of over expansion and financial issues.

        Yep, that is the traditional American way of growing soccer.

      • Yeah except some things from other countries make sense. There’s also no reason we have to make MLS a carbon copy of US sports leagues either. 28 is too big. Let’s do pro/rel.

      • I’m not looking to be an MLS apologist- as I say- there is plenty to improve in MLS. I just happen to think the greater problem/emphasis by clubs/mls and demand from fans should be game based, straight up- developing and putting talent on the field. That would include referees and managers.The rest of the minutia people seem to spend so much time sweating pale in comparison to that.

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