MLS Commissioner Don Garber gives update on league's expansion plans
Chivas USA are staying in Los Angeles. Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber was emphatic about that on Thursday following the announcement that the league has purchased the club from Jorge Vergara and Angelica Fuentes.
But the interest from other major markets in the United States remains robust, and on a conference call with media, Garber gave a few updates on the league’s plans to add another three teams by 2020.
In addition to Miami, Garber also spoke of a number of potential expansion possibilities, including Atlanta, Minneapolis, Sacramento, San Diego and San Antonio.
As David Beckham and his partners work to finalize a stadium plan in Miami, the league remains “bullish” on Atlanta, Garber said. MLS is making progress with a group led by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, which has a plan in place to replace the Georgia Dome with a $1.2 billion new retractable-roof stadium for the NFL franchise that would also be configured for Major League Soccer.
The Commissioner cited a projected record crowd of more than 54,000 at next month’s Mexico-Nigeria friendly at the Georgia Dome as “another indication of the strength of that market.”
Meanwhile, Garber gave more details on a market he has referenced previously: the Twin Cities, where apparently the league has had talks with a potential ownership group.
“That opportunity is one that we're excited about as we believe we need more teams in the Midwest,” the Commissioner said. “I think if Minneapolis as a market that can continue to show the support that they've had for the NASL club [Minnesota United FC] and if they continue to make progress on a number of different stadium opportunities, there's a real opportunity there.”
Beyond that, Garber name-dropped three other markets where there have been discussions with various groups, among them:
• Sacramento – “There are some activities going on in Northern California,” Garber offered, after earlier referencing the upcoming debut of Sacramento Republic FC of the USL PRO.
• San Diego – “There have been some discussions,” according to the Commissioner.
• San Antonio – Garber was in Texas’ second-largest city last month to meet with the mayor as well as the owner of the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions. Although the Commissioner didn’t limit the opportunities just to River City, saying, “There are lots and lots of opportunities we’ve looked at in Texas.”
With the additions of New York City FC and Orlando City SC, MLS will be at 21 teams in 2015 and plans to expand to 24 by 2020.
“I think the league is poised for more teams in time,” Garber said Thursday, “but we're going to be careful about ensuring that we get them into the league at the right time and when the league can handle it from a player perspective and from a resource perspective.”