NEW YORK – MLS Commissioner Don Garber provided an overview of the latest expansion candidates in his annual State of the League address, stating that he envisions a league with more than 20 teams.
“I don’t know when it will be when we go beyond 20, but I think at some point in our lifetime there will be more than 20 teams in MLS,” Garber said on Tuesday’s media teleconference call. “It’s a big country. We cross [four] time zones. … But we have a long way to go before we even can consider that.”
The MLS Commissioner reiterated that the league is currently focused on making a New York club its 20th expansion team in 2013 and indicated that the New York Red Bulls are supportive of the plan.
“We’ve been meeting with the city, with the Wilpon family and the owners of the Cosmos name and brand and other investors who have expressed interest,” Garber said. “The Red Bulls are very supportive of it. They believe a local rival will add even more passion for the sport and for the league in this market.
“There are 13 plus million people in this city and more than enough to go around with two teams, particularly if one is in New York and one is based over the river in New Jersey. So I’m not at all concerned about saturation.”
Garber pointed to the three-team rivalry in the Pacific Northwest as an example of how passionate local rivalries can increase local relevance of MLS clubs and eventually translate onto a national scale, with the Seattle Sounders proving a draw on nationally televised matches.
In addition to New York, the Commissioner confirmed that MLS is in talks with groups in Atlanta, while the league has also received interest from cities including Orlando, Tampa, Miami and San Diego among others.
“I can’t imagine this will be a league that does not have teams in the south, certainly south of Washington, DC,” Garber said. “It’s inconceivable that we won’t have teams at some point, whether it’s in Atlanta, Georgia or in Florida. We have to. The question is when that might be.”