Garber: MLS expansion to South requires new stadiums
Commissioner Don Garber's State-of-the-League address before MLS Cup has become an annual rite and so have the expansion questions that it invariably brings.
On Monday's media conference call, Garber openly discussed plans for expansion to the Southeast. And when it comes to Atlanta and Orlando, those possibilities could be unlocked if new stadiums come to fruition.
"It certainly would hinge on the new stadium because otherwise there wouldn’t be a place to play," Garber said about the potential of expansion into Atlanta in partnership with the NFL's Falcons and their owner Arthur Blank. "Should the public sector and private sector be able to come together and get a new facility for the Falcons, it would allow us to continue our discussions on how MLS can fit into their mutual plans."
Garber indicated that the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons currently play, the Atlanta Silverbacks stadium and other existing college facilities are not suitable to be the home for a new MLS expansion team.
The same position applies for Orlando and the bid led by USL club Orlando City and owner Phil Rawlins (above, left).
"We’ll continue to monitor what's happening down there and I think at some point, if they’re able to finalize a stadium plan that make sense, we’d be very interested on working with them on an MLS team."
As far as the other Florida city often brought up in expansion talk, Garber stated that Miami "would make sense" as an expansion market, but "it's certainly not now."
In the meantime, the main priority for the league continues to be a second team in New York City. But the league is ready to switch focus if a deal does not materialize.
"We talked about Atlanta, Orlando, Miami and we haven't talked much about Minneapolis, but they, too, have expressed interest in an MLS team," Garber said. "If we’re not able to get something finalized [in NYC], we obviously have to start looking at other markets until we’re able to execute the second team here in New York."