MLS Commissioner Don Garber talks NYC2 progress, Florida expansion, Champions League schedule tweak

HARRISON, N.J. – MLS Commissioner Don Garber dropped by the Red Bull Arena press box at halftime of Saturday’s New York-D.C. United match, and naturally many of the questions directed at him were related to the push for a soccer-specific stadium in Queens for a second New York franchise.

And progress is being made there, Garber said. But there’s also a strong desire to get it done soon, he added, as the league looks to make a decision on where its 20th franchise will be based.

“It needs to get done so we can move on with our expansion plans,” Garber told the assembled media. “Unlike our last discussion, I’m not going to put any timing on that.”

MLS has been meeting regularly – including twice this past week, the Commissioner said – with New York City and New York State state officials over a 10-acre plot of land in Flushing Meadow Park that could be the site of an eventual stadium for a new team. The league has also been in discussions with investor groups to spearhead a potential new franchise.

“I’m confident we’re going to get this done,” Garber added. “It’s a big one for us and a legacy project for the league.”

That said, the Commissioner also revealed that the league has turned its attention back to Florida as well, and that there has been “a lot of activity in Orlando,” where USL Pro side Orlando City has made waves in their ambitions to eventually rise to the MLS level.

“We are more focused in Florida than we’ve ever been in the past,” Garber said, addressing the southeastern part of the United States. “The numbers of youth players from that part of the country – there’s 70-80 million people in that part of the country – we don’t have any representation [further south] than D.C. Florida’s become a bit more of a priority.”

Garber also revealed that the league is set to adjust to the schedule to accommodate the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy as they prepare for the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Both teams host Mexican opponents in midweek – Seattle vs. Santos Laguna on April 2 and LA vs. Monterrey on April 3 – and travel for the return legs a week later.

According to the current MLS schedule, both teams play league games between those legs – LA at home vs. Montreal on April 6 and Seattle hosting Chivas USA the next day.

“We are talking about having a schedule change to provide Seattle and LA a little more of a window," Garber said. “We haven’t talked about that publicly yet, but we’re trying to make that work.”

Seattle, LA and Houston all had byes the weekend between the midweek legs of their CCL quarterfinals.