MLS commissioner Don Garber
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Garber: Expansion conversation goes beyond NY

NEW YORK – MLS Commissioner Don Garber has not ruled out the possibility that another expansion market could leap ahead of New York in the race to become the league’s 20th club.

“It’s possible that another market could jump in there,” Garber said in Friday's annual media teleconference call leading up to First Kick. “If that happens, we’ll just move our efforts and our plans in New York to a later time period.”

The MLS Commissioner proceeded to cite several markets that are involved in discussions with the league office: San Diego, Arizona, Las Vegas, Detroit, San Antonio, South Florida and Atlanta, where a potential ownership group is led by Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL's Falcons.

The talks with San Diego and Arizona were described as happening “very recently.”

Garber made clear his position on the South Florida market when asked to comment on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and the NASL club’s recent hiring of Tim Robbie as team president.

“If [Strikers parent company Traffic Sports USA] can really prove to themselves and [prove] to us that South Florida can support an MLS team the way many other cities across North America are, then we’ll run down to Fort Lauderdale,” Garber said. “We’d love to be there. We just don’t believe today that it can support an MLS team at the level that’s required to be viable.”

[inline_node:326136]Inevitably, the New York Cosmos figured prominently in the expansion conversation. The Commissioner said that talks were still preliminary but positive.

“We still need to get further with them on how they would be capitalized, what their ownership structure would look like and how they would fund a primarily privately financed stadium in the most expensive construction market in country,” Garber said of the Cosmos. “As well as their view as to the MLS system which requires a real commitment to the single-entity concept.”

And despite media reports pointing to financial challenges for the Wilpon family, Garber was still upbeat about the potential for the New York Mets owners being involved in MLS. He said the Wilpon family would be “great owners in Major League Soccer and they’ve got a pretty darn good site for a soccer stadium.”

However, the Commissioner also indicated that there were other young entrepreneurs and who have “done very well lately” and expressed an interest in investing in a New York club.

“I believe we will be larger than 20 teams,” Garber said. “I can’t say when that will be. But I can’t imagine that when this league is fully expanded that we don’t have teams in the Southeast, that we don’t have another team in the Midwest, that we’re not even expanding to the southern part of California.

"I believe we will have more teams, we just don’t have a timetable when that will be.”