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Don Garber on MLS expansion: “San Diego, Las Vegas are most likely opportunities for 30”


MLS expansion is always a major talking point ahead of each league season and as the 2023 campaign gets set to kick off, commissioner Don Garber hinted at two likely destinations to host the 30th franchise.

Both San Diego and Las Vegas lead the race to house an MLS franchise, Garber confirmed Wednesday at a league kickoff event in New York City. Garber previously admitted ahead of the 2022 MLS Cup Final that the league was in talks with both cities for MLS expansion and that trend has seemed to continue in the early stages of 2023.

“We do need more teams,” Garber said. “The 30th team will come at some point soon. Hopefully, we’d like to get that announced by the end of the year.

“We say we’re going to stop at 30, but [some of] the other major leagues are larger than that,” he added.” I never say never in Major League Soccer. There are many other markets that are opportunities for us. I think San Diego and Las Vegas are the most likely opportunities for 30.”

San Diego currently is home to USL Championship side San Diego Loyal, which is managed by former U.S. men’s national team and MLS star Landon Donovan. NWSL welcomed an expansion team in 2022, the San Diego Wave, which broke the league’s single-game attendance record with a sellout crowd of 32,000 witnessing a rivalry victory over Angel City FC.

Las Vegas also has a USL team of its own, the Las Vegas Lights, which has been formerly led by current LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo and modern-day analyst Eric Wynalda. The Lights have yet to make the playoffs in any of their five league campaigns to date.

Garber also mentioned Detroit, Phoenix, Sacramento, and Tampa Bay as other expansion possibilities, with several of those areas already housing USL clubs in the modern-day American soccer pyramid.

2023 MLS expansion side St Louis CITY SC is set to begin its life in MLS on Saturday, facing off with 2021 debutants Austin FC.


  1. The MLS owners didn’t sign any sort of contract when they purchased their franchise that said they need to improve the NT. Just as it isn’t any player’s responsibility to prop up MLS by playing there instead of in Europe.

    • dude, the league benefits when casual fans are excited about how the NT is doing and respond by coming to watch their local team. we are still at the stage of getting people interested in the sport. whether you admit or not that often comes in 4 year bursts.

      also, almirons come and go, to me it’s important that the domestic spine is strong because for every boniek or henry who wants to set up shop here a while, you often have a few internationals just here briefly for a paycheck or on their way to europe.

      • I don’t disagree, however, there’s a limit to that benefit in 2023. The ability for a casual fan to look and see that MLS isn’t close to top European leagues in terms of difficulty is pretty easy. So a casual is like I really liked watching Musah or Weah, they aren’t going to then watch Cole Basset and Christian Ramirez. They are going to sit down and stream La Liga or EPL. MLS owners would love to sign Weah and Musah but the amount of money it would take to bring them to MLS as young high potential European players is not in the affordable ballpark. I saw somewhere Pulisic makes around 10 million a year, MLS could afford that, but Pulisic isn’t going to leave Europe for that. Do you think Columbus chose Cucho because they didn’t want Pulisic or Sargent? No they couldn’t afford the price they require to leave Europe. If Insigne is getting 14 million a year, my estimate is Pulisic would need double that to even get him to think about coming. Also, Chelsea won’t let him go for free so add another 40-50 million up front. That doesn’t make economic sense. I’m sure St. Louis has made overture to hometown boys Sargent and Ream, but were told thanks but no thanks at this time. Teams have options like can sign players in their early 20s from South America that can play attractive soccer right now and hope to win and maybe sell on, sign aged Euro star to possibly win but put fans in seats, or build academies and look for the long game of developing selling developing selling and then using that money to augment the youngsters with quality vets to make a run. Right now you’ve got maybe 4 teams that are trying the academy route NYRB, Philadelphia, Dallas and new to the game San Jose. But they aren’t playing current NT stars their building with YNT stars and selling them when they get to NT level. I think you’ll see NT starter level guys come to MLS after 2026, but the key to NT development is having a new group go to Europe every year so that you have big time players in both continents when guys come home.

    • also your argument is inherently indefinite. in theory league owners could want anything from fully domestic to fully international. you’re suggesting there is one answer. there isn’t. they artificially set the bar somewhere in between. i think a lower bar promotes the NT which circles back to promote the league itself.

      • As I said below how is Liga Mx’s stricter domestic # rules working. League is declining and NT is declining. France, Germany, Italy has a much larger pool of quality talent, although if you look at top scorers and assist men in those leagues they’re all skewed more to foreign players too.

  2. I hope San Diego gets a franchise since I’m a native San Diegan and it has been a hotbed of soccer for a long time. They should go to 32 teams split into 4 divisions and have the top- 4 teams in each division go into the playoffs. This would be similar to the NBA. As for the promotion/relegation issue, here are some things to consider. If you look at top European leagues almost always the championship comes from a small group of teams in a league. That group is almost always made up of teams that are much richer than the other teams and that often comes from the nature of their ownership. Money leads to monopoly and inequality. Many of the lower tier teams are not doing well financially. Many of the teams in the second division of European leagues have a long history and stadiums that can support a promoted team. MLS is about the opposite of all of this and it was set up specifically to avoid those problem issues. There is much more equality in MLS and much greater interchange of champions from year to year. With the playoff system, there are usually more meaningful games at the end of the MLS season than is found in most European leagues.

  3. to me the narrowcasting/paywalling of the league via the apple deal dwarfs the rest of this. i am a fan of a team with a recent history of cellar dwelling. i now have to pay for the privilege of watching them suck from home? this is about the last straw. and both USSF and MLS did this nonsense. and long term. like in theory it may be a decade of this paywall for MLS.

    the size of the league is growing unwieldy and affecting sporting integrity. my team might see austin or dallas 3 times and not chicago or TFC at all. i am not a pro/rel fan but it’s getting too big. they needed to stop in the low 20s and make each roster that much better but we are well past that.

    i personally think 8 foreign players is too many, that the league is trending “EPL” in the sense of not carving out enough space for domestic players to start and develop/platform NT guys. but then EPL is vast majority foreign owned teams. small minority of majority owners with english citizenship. kind of a cosmopolitan playground with good soccer but telling they don’t dominate europe and the NT hasn’t won a world cup in nearly 60 years.

    i think you have some fanboys who just want to xerox something european, but there is no one league, they aren’t all the same, and they often have things like nicknames, balls on the logos, FFP, playoffs, etc. that fanboys reject as “american.”

    not a pro-rel fan but i see the more context based pro-rel argument — as opposed to slavish xerox — as that the league is getting just massive and tiering so bad the elite and the cellar dwellers don’t even seem to be in the same competition. that you might need it to restore the parity this has been premised on. either that or you have to chop the good teams off at the knees and restore a hard cap where this is more even again.

    but some of the things people want to xerox, pro-rel for its own sake is like let’s kill some soccer teams. no spending limits, same. home and away aggregate arguably gives the favorites two bites at the apple, maybe it should be just one game. constant increasing of international slots encourages teams to bench domestic prospects, which weakens the NT.

    • Beyond your idea that people want pro/Rel purely as a fanboy response to be more like Europe. There is the thought that it would create more competition to improve oneself and their club to avoid relegation. Also an inept management like your Dynamo might actually have to try to win matches instead of just pocketing your hard earned ticket dollars. That perhaps they’d invest in infrastructure and academies, maybe a scouting department. If instead of 10-15 MLS clubs identifying and developing talent within the US, say there were 40-50 clubs identifying and developing talent because being in the top 20-24 clubs in the MLS first division was the way to economic success. I don’t think pro/rel ever comes to MLS, as you point out why would these established clubs agree to the economic risk? As for how does MLS help the national team? I believe (and from your comments over the years I think you agree) competition is always better for development whether that is having to field a better squad or an American having to beat out an Argentine for playing time. It may be coincidental but since Liga Mx put in stricter roster limits their national team has struggled to integrate new young talent to replace aging stars.

      • It’s kind of amusing when some MLS fans bash pro/rel as some foreign concept that Americans won’t understand. If anything, I think Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney are actually mainstreaming pro/rel for American audiences with their purchase of Wrexham and their whole FX docuseries. And now you even have people that aren’t even fans of the sport supporting Wrexham cause they realize that pro/rel can be a compelling story.

    • 2 of Dynamo’s first 3 matches will be available for free without MLS Season Pass or Apple TV+. They’ve only announced the matches that will be free for the first 4 weeks (Houston have a bye week 3). I read around 40% of matches will be available for free, usually 5 or 6 plus 1 on Fox or FS1. Every match this weekend is listed as free on Apple TV. I know not as good as every match on your local sports network, but not end of the world.

  4. You two:

    Define successful sports league.

    Is it the league that makes the most money?

    “the top 20 richest teams in the world and most of the that top 20 is dominated by NFL teams.”

    #1 sports league in the world is probably the NFL.
    The #2 sports league in America and maybe the the world is NCAA Div 1 football.

  5. Don’t know why everyone is obsessed with pro/rel. EPL wanted to close pro/rel when it was being formed. The power brokers still want the EPL to close off from the rest of the English soccer pyramid. Most of the top leagues in Europe have wanted to end pro/rel. What are the merits of Pro/Rel? Other than it being a meritocracy to move up and down leagues based off of wins and losses, I struggle to find much more than that. Clubs go bankrupt consistently, clubs have disbanded and dissolved due to being relegated, and fans/ supporters demand from the club owner/owners more and more money to be spent on players in order to improve their squad so they can win and stay in a league. Most of the top teams are owned by billionaires and are far removed from it being a club. Manchester City is a franchise now, Red Bulls is a franchise, Barcelona wants to go that route, Real Madrid all of the top teams want to be franchised they are looking to buy teams around the world to in order to sell their brand and attract more money, fans, and investors. Fans/ supporters have to realize that they are just as much as the problem why football is now being ruled by massive amounts of money. Pro/Rel has created European teams and leagues from losing money hand over fist. Besides the EPL which has massive amounts of TV money coming in and the Bundesliga which has very strict spending guidelines the rest of the European top leagues are drowning in debt. In fact a lot of the European leagues are looking at MLS now as a potential model. Those few who want a super league are right European soccer will not be able to sustain going into the future as is. But what they have failed to realize is that there is a super league in Europe and that league is the EPL.

    Personally I think MLS is doing it right. While I agree the league needs to let go of the strings a bit I think Pro/Rel can stay on the shelf. I do think there will be an MLS 2 at some point, but I don’t think that the owners will agree to teams moving up and down between MLS and MLS 2. I describe MLS 2 as more of a farm system for MLS. Like MLB and Triple AAA and the other minor leagues for MLB.

    • The most successful sports league in the world is the NFL. Not even the EPL is close to touching how much the NFL has made in money for the teams and the league. You look at the top 20 richest teams in the world and most of the that top 20 is dominated by NFL teams.

    • IMO a lot of the pro-rel sorts are either fanboys who just want to imitate “europe” or hyper-capitalists who want the low spend teams crushed like bugs, or to be able to rant about how everything comes down to work ethic and trying hard, while ignoring how much is decided simply by willingness to take out a checkbook and spend as opposed to growing then playing soccer players you trained since U-5. but then i think a lot of the “system fashion” problem is when second tier NT or pro teams from small leagues try to adopt what city or barca or liverpool do without the same finances.

      i don’t see a lot of intellectual rigor or build to suit these days. what do i have, how does it actually play best. i see a lot of mimic the spending teams. or in this case spending leagues. without regard to optimization. or do i have those type players.

  6. Obviously the target should be at least 40 with some form of pro/rel in effect.

    And it’s long past time we took the training wheels off and let the big dogs spend like the big dogs wanna spend. There is no reason the likes of Atlanta, Seattle, LAFC, etc shouldn’t have world-class players. They have the fan bases to support it.

    You’ve successfully built the base, Don. Now start building up as well as out.

    • same fallacies as the defunct European Super League concept. it takes more than 5 spendy teams to make a league. do we want a real competition or just an exhibition for entertainment purposes? and as a USMNT fan as much as MLS, how is your concept to chase “world class” channeled such that it benefits our NT rather than mostly goes to pay for players who come window time play for Mexico or some European team?

      personally i think the more pro NT solution is come up with roster rules that promote bringing back current and former YNT/MNT unhappy with their clubs. every winter i am like here is a list of guys to chase. if you really want to grow the sport in a sustainable fashion it’s make the NT even better which gets more fans to club games which gets more kids to fields which makes the NT even better which…….etc. i don’t think mimicking the english model is actually beneficial for us — it only kind of benefits the also-ran english.

      personally i see a lot of the fashionable ideas among the fanboys as cross purposes with make us better at the sport. some other european leagues have stricter quotas, more opportunity for their players, and more NT success. england isn’t that incredible a team as two straight world cup ties suggests. not sure why that laissez faire approach is the model and not france, germany, italy.


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