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MLS commissioner Garber on TAM, Miami, USL, Cosmos and more

Photo by Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO — MLS commissioner Don Garber provided some noteworthy updates on a number of issues at the State of the League address on Thursday afternoon in Toronto.

From targeted allocation money to a potential playoff restructure, the assembled media asked and received credible answers from the commissioner on some significant topics.

Here are some of the highlights from the State of the League address.


Garber confirmed an earlier report about an increase in targeted allocation money and how each team was given an additional $400,000 in TAM.

An extra $1.2 million in TAM will be granted for every club, which means every team has received an increase of $800,000 from what MLS announced last year. Garber also confirmed that the investment in TAM from 2016 to 2017 “will go up $33 million”.

When asked about the possibility of simply increasing the base structure of all salaries, Garber was quick to shoot down the suggestion.

“If you look at it from where we sit, it’s total investment,” said the commissioner. “We’re not going to our owners and saying here is your salary budget, here is your TAM budget and here is your Designated Player budget and looking at them independent of each other. It’s total investment. Some of it is flexible like what you do or do not spend on designated players, but TAM is not optional, you spend TAM money. But I look at ‘what is our total average spending per club?’ Our total is $8 million.

“We are still going through phases of development and are very focused on slow, steady and strategic growth. When you look at what can happen, and there examples back down in the United States in real time, if you don’t subscribe to that, it kind of teaches us that going down this path has us where we are today.”


Whenever Garber is in attendance with the media, the elephant in the room is always the Miami franchise.

There was no concrete update, but it seems like MLS has given the Miami group another deadline and is prepared to discuss future steps at a board meeting if a situation cannot be found.

“There is a deadline on the Miami deal,” Garber admitted. “I’m not going to share that deadline, it’s an agreement we have with David Beckham and Simon Fuller. What I’ve said before and I’ll say again now is that we need to solve the Miami situation so that we can go forward with our expansion plans on teams 25 through 28. They are team 24. If they’re not going to be 24, then there’s going to be a lot of things that need to move around. It’s something we’ll discuss at our board meeting.”

Even though the current status of the team is up in the air, the league is still committed to Miami as the franchise searches for a stadium site.

“We continue to be very engaged there,” he said. “We have reached an agreement on land, there are investment groups that have been looking, we’ve got all sorts of community-based efforts that we’ve got to do to ensure we can get beyond zoning issues and it’s all working in real time.”


With all of the doom and gloom surrounding the NASL’s future, the USL submitted an application for second-division status to U.S. Soccer, something that Garber is proud to see.

“I spoke to [USL CEO] Alec Papadakis two days ago,” said Garber. “I know that they are in discussions to figure out a way that perhaps there could be more order in the lower divisions. They have an application in for second-division status with U.S. Soccer. I don’t know where that stands … Sunil Gulati might be able to give you a bit more perspective on that.

“We’ve got 10 teams that are operating USL clubs. All of our clubs will be affiliated with the USL. That’s allowing us to develop players a lot more effectively than a reserve league. We want them to be strong.”

As for the NASL’s future, Garber was asked about the New York Cosmos and whether he would be interested in seeing the franchise join MLS down the road.

“We have two teams in MLS in New York,” Garber said. “We are not going to have a third team, so they’re going to decide to do whatever it is that, as owners of the trademark, have the right to do.”


MLS is known for its confusing and convoluted roster rules, which is what makes the league both unique and frustrating.

When asked about potentially eliminating some of the rules, Garber defended the league’s structure and compared it to other North American sports.

“Our roster rules can be complicated,” Garber admitted. “But so are the roster rules of other leagues. The Bird exception, the franchise tags, the major franchise tags and minor franchise tags, all leagues have roster structure that in many ways, allow them to effectively manage rosters. So I don’t actually subscribe to the fact that it is too complicated.”

As for added transparency, Garber was in agreement that it’s something the league needs to fix, but it may not be happening any time soon.

“We’ve been working to try and release as much as we can, this information, in a way where our fans and media are aware of it,” he said. “We’re changing our culture from what was no transparency, for whatever reason, and now to having a lot more transparency. Is it complicated? Probably more so than it might be five years from now or ten years from now.

“Is it something that we’re going to change overnight? I don’t think so.”

More notes…

Garber reiterated that MLS will not be changing its playoff structure in 2017, even though an ESPN report claimed that the league would consider altering the format. However, he admitted that he is “not afraid to make changes” should the issue arise in the future.

The MLS SuperDraft is not going anywhere, according to Garber. Instead, the league is going to find a solution to address young players leaving for academies overseas. The commissioner admits that is a problem that needs to be fixed soon.

MLS and Canada Soccer recently announced roster changes that would allow some Canadian homegrown players to count as domestics on American teams. Garber was asked why the league couldn’t grant domestic status to all Canadians and claimed that the rule was the best “legally supportable initiative.”


      • yes, agreed, you never want to see a club fold. so, I hope all of the remaining nasl teams can join usl if that’s what they want to do.

  1. when people say they want more transparency, to what unavailable information are they referring? the league publishes the schedule, the competition rules, the rules for special things like waiver draft, super draft, dispersal draft, expansion draft, etc. they publish the priority order for re-entry draft. they publish list of free agents. the rules of football are well known, but may be referred to on fifa’s site. the players’ union publishes salary information. disciplinary committee makes reports. PRO makes reports. opta makes reports about stats that didn’t even exist ten years ago. I just am sincerely wondering what more do people want to know???

    • I’d say people want transparency in regard to each team’s payroll. Specifically, available cap space, available TAM, available allocation money, allocation money received in a trade, DP money, contract terms, trade terms, etc…. Plus we would like to know who is getting paid by which of the above and how much. I could go on.

      • and people would probably want to know this to make sure nobody’s cheating (to make sure that one team doesn’t get an unfair advantage by stacking their roster with players that they should not be able to get if they follow all the rules), yes?

      • Yes that’s part of it. For me, the other part is many fans like to analyze numbers and potential trades and transfer fees. But we can’t when we can’t see the numbers. For example baseball fans get to do this all day since MLB deals are much more transparent.

    • It doesn’t bother me at all, but I think there are some who would be interested to know more about how the relationships between MLS, SUM, and USSF work.

    • Beto, the USA is going to win world cups, when young American players come through our domestic leagues, and when MLS clubs are winning all the competitions they can. Why is that so confusing?

    • I don’t think he is saying that the league is going to prevent players from going oversees. More likely he is saying that the league is going to incentivize players to stay closer to home by putting a higher priority on them and their development.

      • More likely he is saying that the league is going to incentivize players to stay closer to home by putting a higher priority on them and their development.

        This is also what I took away from it.

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