MLS boss hopes to pick 30th team by 2023 end


MLS names favourites for league expansion Image: MLS

With the Major League Soccer (MLS) Opening Day getting off to a start on February 25th, the Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber expressed hope to pick a 30th team by the end of the year and defended an expanded playoff format in which 18 of 29 clubs make the postseason.

‘AP’ stated that speaking recently during a kickoff event at the league’s new television studio built together with Apple TV, Garber said he felt relieved that the MLS avoided the difficulties faced by other sports preparing for the possible bankruptcy of Sinclair Sports Group’s Bally Sports regional sports networks.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States. The league comprises 29 teams – 26 in the United States and 3 in Canada – since the 2023 season. The league is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan in New York, US.

The 2023 Major League Soccer (MLS) season is the 28th season of Major League Soccer (MLS), the top professional soccer league in the United States and Canada. The league now has 29 clubs following the addition of St. Louis City SC as an expansion team in the Western Conference, with Nashville SC moving back to the Eastern Conference. The regular season began on February 25th, 2023, and will end on October 21st, 2023. It will then be followed by the playoffs. The regular schedule was released on December 20th, 2022.

The Bally Sports Regional Networks are a group of regional sports networks in the United States owned by the Diamond Sports Group, a joint-venture company of the Sinclair Broadcast Group and Entertainment Studios. The naming rights to the network were sold to casino operator Bally’s Corporation.

‘AP’ further stated that the MLS has nearly tripled in size from 2004, when it was a 10-team league.

Stated Garber, “We do need more teams. The 30th team will come at some point soon. Hopefully, we’d like to get that announced by the end of the year. We say we’re going to stop at 30 but the other major leagues are larger than that. I never say never in Major League Soccer. There are many other markets that are opportunities for us. I think San Diego and Las Vegas are the most likely opportunities for 30.

He mentioned Detroit, Phoenix, Sacramento (California), and Tampa (Florida) as other expansion possibilities.

Garber defended the playoff format, announced recently, in which 62 percent of teams reach the postseason. In other sports in the United States, 14 of 32 teams make the playoffs in the National Football League (NFL), 12 of 30 in Major League Baseball (MLB), 16 of 30 in the National Basketball Association (NBA), and 16 of 32 in the National Hockey League (NHL).

The MLS Cup Playoffs is the annual postseason elimination tournament of Major League Soccer. The MLS Cup, the league’s championship game, is the final match of the tournament.

The league has announced a new postseason format and the schedule for this year’s playoffs. The format combines the recent single-elimination setup and the past best-of-three system to create a postseason that will feature up to 24 total matches, up from 12 in 2022.

The MLS used a mixture of two-leg and single-elimination rounds from 2003-2018, then went to a knockout competition the last four years. The league is switching to single-game wild-card matchups and a best-of-three round – last used in 2002. The playoffs revert to a knockout competition for the final eight.

There will be a maximum of 33 games, up from 13 last year.

Added Garber, “We have been working on trying to find the right format for a really long time. We are playing here in North America and know the importance of playoffs to drive energy in the latter part of the season. We wanted more games. … If this works, we’ll have it forever. If it doesn’t work, we’ll continue to evolve it.”

Garber hopes the MLS season ticket holders will have preferred access for tickets for the 2026 World Cup, which the United States will co-host with Mexico and Canada. No decisions on ticketing have been made.

He further added, “It would seem that if you’re a supporter of the game by buying season tickets, whether that’s for Major League Soccer or it’s the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) or the various other minor leagues, you ought to be able to have a direct or more direct access to tickets for any tournament, whether that’s United States soccer matches or that’s Copa América-type tournaments or if it’s the World Cup.”

Garber spoke at a 6,000-square foot television studio in the Spanish Harlem area of Manhattan that will host coverage of telecasts by Apple TV, a 10-year deal announced last June. All MLS games will be streamed by Apple in the 2023 season.

Garber further stated, “It would be unfair to say we were prescient and anticipated a dramatic change in what’s happening with at least one company, but we knew that the market was moving from local to more of a direct-to-consumer offering. There was such a lack of consistency on the quality of our broadcasts because of the changing dynamic that was happening at the local level. And that was happening for five years. So, I’m glad that we’re in the position we’re in.”

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