$4 billion media rights offer laid out with MLS promotion/relegation clause

Major League Soccer has turned down a lucrative media rights offer, which would have forced MLS promotion/relegation to come into effect, according to Sports Business Daily.

League commissioner Don Garber has made it clear for a long time that he has no interest in MLS promotion/relegation. And he has once again proved that by rejecting $4 billion for a 10-year global media rights deal.

The offer was made last month by international media company MP & Silva. They made it clear to MLS that they would quadruple the league’s current media rights deal by offering $4 billion for the league’s global rights from 2023 to 2032.

But MLS were quick to dismiss the offer. The league’s current media deal with ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision runs for another six years. It’s far too early for the league to be agreeing a decade-long agreement for when the current deal ends.

And it’s also out of the question that MLS would risk the league’s future for a media rights deal that wouldn’t come into effect for six years. The league has a plan for long-term growth, and this offer won’t intervene.

‘No interest’ in MLS promotion/relegation proposal

“As Commissioner Garber stated in his letter to Mr. Silva, we are not in a position, nor are we interested in engaging with Mr. Silva on his proposal,” MLS executive vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche said.

As well as being the founding partner of MP & Silva, Riccardo Silva is also the president and co-owner of Miami FC. The NASL welcomed Miami just last year, following their formation in 2015. So it makes sense as to why Silva wants to try and essentially buy promotion/relegation for MLS.

But the league won’t budge on it’s stance on MLS promotion/relegation. Especially not for a deal so far away in the future.

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Nashville MLS expansion bid receives major boost following Garber’s first visit

The Nashville MLS expansion bid received a boost this weekend following the first visit of league commissioner Don Garber. Nashville is one of 12 cities fighting for four expansion slots and it’s chances of success look to be on the up.

Garber admitted that the MLS front office was surprised when it received an expansion bid from Music City back in December. But after seeing a “committed ownership group”, who are hopeful of securing a public-private stadium financing plan later this year, Tennessee might just be getting a Major League Soccer team.

“Nashville is very much like Major League Soccer: It’s a city on the rise,” Garber said during Friday’s visit.

“When we think about expansion in North America, there’s an incredible energy here. There’s the strength of the entertainment and music business and there’s a great public-private approach to getting things done. That character of the city is very much about our league.”

USA Clearance at Classic Football Shirts

The MLS commissioner toured Nashville on Friday and will be at Nissan Stadium on Saturday, where the USA face Panama in the Gold Cup.

Nissan Stadium is the home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, but Nashville’s potential MLS team would need to have its own stadium. Garber reiterated that any expansion side needs to secure a soccer-specific stadium site to enter MLS.

“If a very promising market can’t have a stadium, they’re not going to be an MLS expansion team. If Nashville’s able to achieve that, it’s going to be a very positive aspect for their bid.

“When we founded the league, soccer stadiums were not part of the original plan. The plan was to play in NFL stadiums. Now, we realise there’s no reason to go into a market until you get that locked up.”

Nashville mayor Megan Barry is well behind the push to bring soccer to the city. While MLS bidder John Ingram, who has teamed up with businessman Bill Hagerty, is doing all he can to secure an expansion slot.

They hope to have a funding package for an MLS stadium in the next few months. While Ingram recently bought controlling rights to Nashville Soccer Club. Nashville SC will enter the USL in 2018 and would become an MLS club if a franchise is awarded to the city.

Nashville SC is run by former MLS executive Court Jeske. While the team will be coached by Englishman Gary Smith, who famously won the 2010 MLS Cup with Colorado. Smith remains the only English coach to ever win MLS Cup.

Nashville, San Antonio, San Diego, Sacramento, Detroit, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Raleigh, Charlotte, Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, Phoenix and Indianapolis are the 12 cities battling for four MLS expansion slots.

Garber is expected to announce the league’s 25th and 26th teams at the end of the year. Several cities are struggling with stadium deals, but Garber doesn’t expect that to delay any decisions.

“We are very confident we’ll have two that we’ll be deciding on,” he said.

Getting stuck in: Could MLS survive with promotion and relegation?

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into whether promotion and relegation is a possibility for Major League Soccer…

Every weekend from August to May I sit on my lumpy couch, remote in hand, ready to watch Premier League matches until my eyes bleed. Liverpool games are always my main meal, but I have some other dishes I like to munch on. Maybe a U.S. player like DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, Brad Guzan or Matt Miazga is playing? Or I might dig into an intriguing Manchester derby. This year I will watch anything Leicester City. But nothing gets the little hairs on my head to stand up more than a relegation battle.

Ah, promotion and relegation. That strangely un-American and un-Canadian system that has been exhaustively debated from coast-to-coast since MLS came around 20 years ago. In a recent ESPN poll, MLS players were asked if they would favour promotion and relegation in MLS. The results saw 49 percent say “yes” and 51 percent answer “no”. And that seems to be where we are: pretty much split down the middle.

But the person who really counts is MLS Commissioner Don Garber. He recently said: “We play in a country where the major leagues are really successful. There is no promotion and relegation in hockey and basketball and they work really well. It is not happening in MLS any time soon.”

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So we are stuck with a quirky playoff system that rewards 60 percent of the league, with very little punishment for the remaining 40 percent. But could promotion and relegation work? No is the answer with the way the league is presently constructed. No owner would pay an expansion fee of $100 million just to be relegated. That is what would’ve happened to NYCFC last season when they amassed a paltry 37 points in their inaugural season.

Ok, let’s start with the basics of how relegation and promotion might work. First, you need a league for MLS teams to be relegated to. Like in the Premier League, there needs to be tiers. Could MLS (Division I) work with the NASL (Division II) and USL (Division III) to form a three-tier system? It would certainly take a lot of work from all three leagues to get aligned, but it is doable.

Now for the stadium issue. The USL and NASL, for the most part, play in – and I use this term loosely – small stadiums. Here’s a scenario: FC Edmonton win the NASL and gets promoted to MLS. They make peanuts on tickets sales, concessions and parking because their rinky-dink stadium holds a mere 5,000 people. They won’t be staying up for long with that kind of revenue.

Let’s look at the reverse. NYCFC gets relegated to the NASL. I doubt David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo will accept going down when they have to play Rayo OKC at the Yukon High School. While I seriously doubt they will be able to convince their European pals to join them with this kind of pitch: “Hey Ronaldo, you should really come check out soccer in America. Not sure where I am, but I think I am playing on a high school field in front of a few friends and family.”

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Ok, teams like AFC Bournemouth in England, who are NASL-esque, made it work. They climbed up the divisions and brought along a dated ground with them to the Premier League. But they didn’t have to rely on gate receipts. The amount of money they got for being promoted is substantial. The pittance teams would get from getting promoted from USL to NASL to MLS would be laughable. And where would the parachute payments come form? TV money?

MLS has come a long way with securing decent TV deals. Fox, ESPN and Univision pay $90 million a year, which is a huge amount compared to what MLS was getting in 1996. But compared to the Premier League’s shiny new multi-billion dollar TV deal, well, the MLS TV deal looks pretty puny.

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For all the reason stated above, and many more I left out, I don’t see promotion and relegation happening in my lifetime. But there’s a good argument for it to happen sooner than later. One anonymous MLS player put it this way when talking to ESPN: “Whether you’re playing for promotion or to avoid relegation, it makes every game that much more important. In MLS, if you’re having a bad season, some guys just ride out the last couple [of] months because they know they’ll be in the league next year.”

MLS is two decades old, so maybe it’s just too early for such a radical change. But to truly be accepted as a top league in world football, it probably has to happen one day. There’s just too much at stake.

Getting Stuck In: How good is MLS?

The Getting Stuck In column delves into some of the more intriguing aspects in US Soccer and MLS, shining a light on the stories regarding the league’s teams and its most-loved characters. This week Dave Lewis looks into just how good Major League Soccer is and how it compares to other divisions around the world…

Sitting in front of my laptop one morning I read a quote from the Don of MLS saying: “I do believe in 10 years’ time or less, people will think of us [MLS] like Serie A, La Liga, and hopefully the way they think about the Premier League.” Then I click on another site and read what Kaka had to say about the league, that it will be “one of the biggest leagues in the world in 5 to 10 years.” Holy crap! Are they high? Do they actually believe that or is it just lip service?

I have had the debate with my mate Eric for a while now: How does MLS stack up against other leagues in the world? We have had this heated discussion over and over again. I have an overinflated view of MLS and he has a deflated view. A few years back we saw publications ranking MLS anywhere from 30th in the world to 50th behind some weird league from an unknown country with too many consonants in its name. What killed me was that Eric nodded his head in agreement saying “that sounds about right.”

Well, Eric has started to come around. He now ranks MLS 12th and he is not the only one to see the light. Bleacher Report put out their rankings in 2014 saying MLS was the tenth best league in the world. Holy crap? MLS is a top ten league in the world? Can that be true? And how did they arrive at this lofty number?

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The four areas Bleacher Report focused on were: Goals per game, red cards per game, continental victories and point differential from first to last.

Say what? They lost me with goals per games played.

The randomness of what people deem important to grading a league is all over the map. I saw one site that used the quality of the food in stadiums as criteria. I am no genius but I can gather that a leathery hot dog at a stadium really shouldn’t be a point reducer.

When a buddy of mine from Southampton weighed in on the state of MLS, he doled out a harsh evaluation when he said that the level of play is that seen in the lower levels of the English Championship or the upper levels of League One. What? After I picked my jaw off the ground I realised I needed to use my own common sense and some loose scientific analysis to find out what level MLS is really at.

Before I dive into major analytics (translation: throwing darts at a board), there are a few disclaimer- type things I need to get off my chest. I am a huge EPL, Liverpool and MLS/Columbus Crew supporter. I have been to Anfield, Stamford Bridge, Highbury, Craven Cottage, many MLS stadiums and Hibernian in the Scottish Premier League. I have watched most of the leagues on television and have even caught a few games in the Bulgarian first division. Don’t ask why.

So here we go. My unbiased take on where MLS stands in the world right now.


 

Level 1

The EPL (England), Bundesliga (Germany), La Liga (Spain) & Serie A (Italy)

My take:

Ok, I would lose all credibility if I told you MLS was better than the established top four leagues in the world. The top teams play in the Champions League, have some of the best players in the world and are technically light years ahead of MLS. The TV money in these leagues, especially in the EPL, is ridiculous, with flocks of away supporters at each game – something MLS could never match with the hugeness of North America (the U.K. has the same square mileage as California). No need to go any further.

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MLS does well in:

Attendance. I found out that MLS is one of the highest-attended leagues in the world. MLS averages just under 22,000 fans per game, with the Seattle Sounders averaging more than my beloved Liverpool on a weekly basis. This makes MLS the seventh-most attended league in the world ahead of well-established and popular divisions like Ligue 1 and the Dutch Eredivisie. And MLS is catching up with Serie A – only 2,000 behind in average attendance. And one quick shot aimed at my Saints pal: The Championship average attendance hovers at a mere 17,000. Badabing!

Where an MLS team would finish:

Relegated.


 

Level 2:

Ligue 1 (France), Eredivisie (Netherlands), Primeira Liga (Portugal), Premier League (Russian), Super Lig (Turkey)

My take:

Ok, we are getting a little closer in class, but still have a way to go. Teams from this group have won the Champions League, whereas no team from MLS has won the much weaker CONCACAF Champions League, with Montreal’s trip to last year’s final the closest the league has come to success in that competition. There are plenty of young stars in the French and Dutch feeder leagues that get gobbled up by the big boys. MLS is starting to develop this reputation of being a development league (see Miazga to Chelsea), but they still need to shed the retirement league stigma.

MLS does well in:

Attacking football. Nobody has ever accused anyone in the Dutch League of deft defending. The same goes for MLS, with most of the money spent on attacking players like Sebastian Giovinco. Watch a Columbus Crew SC game with Kamara, Higuain and Finlay, or an LA Galaxy game with Dos Santos, Gerrard, Keane, Zardes and you will be fully entertained.

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Where an MLS team would finish:

Likely to be relegated but with a chance of staying up.


Group 3:

Brasileiro (Brazil), Primera ( Argentina), Pro League (Belgium), SuperLiga (Serbia), Premier League (Ukraine), Super League (Greece)

My take:

The South American teams are either debt-ridden, corrupt or both. In Brazil players fear for their lives, often don’t see a paychecks and are under constant media scrutiny. And that’s the good news. Players are sold like cattle, being shipped to leagues all over the planet. There are a lot of players from Argentina plying their trade in MLS so that shows how respected the league is down there. In fact, two of the greatest players in Crew history come from Argentina: 2008 MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Federico Higuain. Mega teams like Boca Juniors are still really good, but they have slipped. MLS teams are catching up and would have no problems competing against the teams in the mid and lower end of the table in the smaller European leagues.

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MLS does well in:

Lifestyle. It’s not South America or Eastern Europe. “As soon as I came here, the first two weeks I was training, I didn’t want to go back,” New York Red Bulls Englishman Wright-Phillips once said. “A lot of people, they know that when you come to America you have a good lifestyle.” Enough said on that front.

Where an MLS team would finish:

Definitely staying up with an occasional mid-table finish.


Group 4:

Liga MX (Mexico), J-League (Japan), Scottish Premier League, Allsvenskan (Sweden), Super League (Switzerland)

My take:

This looks like where MLS belongs right now. They might struggle against a side like Celtic (not even sure about this) but they would be fine against the rest of the Scottish Premier League – maybe even dominating them. Plus, the league is a mess financially and averages an embarrassing 10,000 people a game. MLS may be slightly below the Mexican league, although debatable. It would definitely win titles in Japan – a lot. On second thought, not sure the Japanese league belong in this group. Gone!

MLS does well in:

Marketing. They now have nationally televised games on multiple days of the week. Most of the playoffs are televised nationally and all regular season games are available via internet and local broadcasts. The All-Star game is a hit, bringing the likes of Manchester United, Bayern Munich and many other top clubs to play in it. And they know how to market their players with a preseason media day this year that included access to some of the world’s greats: Pirlo, Gerrard, Keane, Villa, Dos Santos, Kaka. Yes, most are old, but not many leagues can boast that lineup of stars.

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Where an MLS team would finish:

Consistently finish in the top four, winning titles too.


A Leagues MLS needs to worry about:

China. MLS can’t compete with the kind of money being thrown around in Asia. China has better attendance right now and are buying top players in their prime (see Teixeira, Jackson and Ramires). The league could steal some of MLS’ thunder. But their model is not necessarily sustainable with so little emphasis on youth development. One to keep an eye on.


Summary:

According to my abacus, MLS is the 16th best league in the world. It’s not top ten or even close to being what Don Garber wants it to be just yet – but it’s climbing. It’s hovering around the Level 3 bracket with an eye toward Level 2. With the salary restrictions, there doesn’t seem to be enough flexibility in place to push for a Level 1 spot in the foreseeable future. But when players like Jordan Morris say no to the Bundesliga and yes to MLS, well, you never know.

MLS Musings: August 2015 – Big name arrivals and is the MVP race over?

By Drew Farmer – Twitter: @CalcioFarmer

Major League Soccer MVP race over already?

Sebastian Giovinco, Benny Feilhaber and Kei Kamara are currently the numbers one through three in the MLS MVP race. Right now, Giovinco is hands down the player most valuable to his team. 16 goals and nine assists in 21 games shows that signing the attacking Italian was a brilliant investment for the club. Giovinco has scored 44% of Toronto FC’s goals in 2015.

Though Feilhaber and Kamara are also having career seasons, Toronto have never qualified for the MLS playoffs. If Giovinco can drag them over the line, currently third in the Eastern Conference, he is most deserving of the MVP trophy.

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Seattle shouldn’t be this bad

Seattle Sounders are currently the worst team, in terms of form, in MLS. The Sounders have lost seven of their last eight matches and were destroyed by Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 last weekend at home. A lot of their problems have coincided with Obafemi Martins’ injury and Clint Dempsey being away on international duty. However, Dempsey’s return didn’t help in that loss to the Whitecaps on Saturday.

Seattle always seems to have potential, but whether it’s needing another midfielder or defender, the side never looks complete. This week, the Sounders announced the signing of 31-year-old Andreas Ivanschitz on a free transfer. Ivanschitz last played for Spanish side Levante, scoring four times in 49 matches and will look to improve the Sounders’ fortunes.

Trades and Transfers 

Speaking at the MLS All-Star Game, commissioner Don Garber stated that the league is losing money. Of course, there have been big names joining MLS this year. This summer alone, Didier Drogba, Giovani Dos Santos and Gonzalo Veron were added to the league on DP deals. In the case of Dos Santos and Veron, transfer fees were also paid.

With the transfer window about to end (August 6th), depending on when you’re reading this, several teams have made one or two signings to improve and others have stood still. Looking at the moves made already, New York Red Bulls may have done the best business. The MLS’s most in-form team added to the great chemistry already at coach Jesse Marsch’s disposal. Shaun Wright-Phillips joined his brother, Bradley at Red Bull Arena and days later the club unveiled Gonzalo Veron as their newest DP.

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DC United holding on to squad for stretch run

While their I-95 rivals, the Red Bulls, added two attacking players, DC United have kept their roster mostly unchanged. The Black and Red did trade for Alvaro Saborio in the middle of July, however.

DC are currently relying on 32-year-old Chris Rolfe and 31-year-old Jairo Arrieta to lead the way in scoring, with Fabian Espindola battling ongoing injuries. So far it is a recipe that has worked at RFK Stadium. However, away from the nation’s capital, DC have suffered four of their five losses. DC goes to Red Bull Arena at the end of August so be ready for a close run-in at the end of the season in the East.

Expansion, Expansion, Expansion!!!

During the All-Star Game festivities, Garber spoke about the expansion plans for MLS in the coming years. Atlanta and Minnesota have already received expansion teams and the league is adamant a new, second Los Angeles team would be unveiled. Garber also stressed that Miami is still an option and a city the league wants to play in.

MLS is already at its strongest with 20 teams and has fans that are hungry to see North American soccer on a regular basis. But does MLS need 24 teams, or any more than that?

Some have speculated that MLS could have 28 to 30 clubs in another 10 to 15 years, more similar to other American sports leagues. The North American Soccer League died due to over expansion and found the appeal of soccer wore off after a hot start. Although MLS has been building for 20 seasons now and soccer is very strong in the US, it’s still no more than the fourth most popular sport in the country.

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Rather than see more expansion after Minnesota and Atlanta – does LA need another try at a second team and does Miami really need to be in MLS? – the league should improve the product even more. Increasing the salary cap, to say $10 million and eliminate most of the financial mechanisms that allow teams to gain more salary space would be massively beneficial. Basically be more European. If MLS wants to grow outside of North America, being more European would help. From my experience, MLS turns off too many fans with its various financial methods and spending.

Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer is a Manchester, England-based journalist/blogger that writes for World Soccer Talk. Drew has contributed to Radio Yorkshire MLS Monday, Forza Italian Football, Bleacher Report, MLSGB and Soccerly. Originally from southwest Missouri, Drew covers Italy’s Serie A, British football and the USA’s Major League Soccer.

Gerrard and Lampard to face Spurs as 13 MLS All-Stars announced

There’s just over two weeks to go until the 2015 MLS All-Star game in Colorado takes place as the best in Major League Soccer will take on Tottenham Hotspur at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday, July 29.

And now 13 of the 22 players likely to lineup against Spurs in this year’s All-Star game have been revealed, with league newcomers Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard both included despite not yet making an MLS appearance.

Lampard and Gerrard were both named to the All-Star team as as MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s picks for the game. That could see the English midfielders play together for the first time since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The Chelsea and Liverpool legends have made a combined total of 58 appearances against Spurs, scoring 12 times against the Lilywhites.

The Fan XI was also announced on Monday along with the Commissioner’s picks as 11 of the best have been put forward for the All-Star game.


2015 MLS All-Star Fan XI: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Kaka (Orlando City), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), David Villa (New York City FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) & Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders)


Obafemi Martins was selected by the AT&T/EA SPORTS™ MLS All-Star “More Than a Vote” Tournament in which EA SPORTS FIFA 15 players scored more than one million goals with the Nigerian frontman, seeing him earn his place on the All-Star game through the same process as last year.

There will be three players making their All-Star debuts as superstars Kaka and David Villa will be joined by Benny Feilhaber, who is enjoying a phenomenal campaign with SKC.

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The biggest surprise from the Fan XI is the absence of Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco, who has been the best player in the league this season, netting 11 times in 17 games to be placed as the second highest goalscorer after 19 weeks.

The ‘Atomic Ant’ is more than likely to be announced in the final squad that Colorado Rapids and this year’s MLS All-Star head coach Pablo Mastroeni reveals on Saturday.

Lampard and Gerrard will definitely be included in the 22-man squad, while those selected in the Fan XI are expected to make up 11 of the remaining 20 places. Being named to the Fan XI doesn’t guarantee a spot on the final roster but is taken into strong consideration.

Who do you want to see make the final MLS All-Star squad of those not included in the Fan XI?

United legend set for Miami battle with former teammate

Manchester United and MLS legend, David Beckham is set for a battle with AC Milan icon, Paolo Maldini, as his proposal for a new Major League Soccer franchise continues.

Maldini has the upper-hand as his Miami Football Club will be competing in the North American Soccer League as of the 2016 season. Maldini is full of confidence ahead of Miami FC’s debut season.

“I’m proud and excited to be part of this venture. I strongly believe in the growth of soccer in USA, and this is the perfect project to develop a top-class soccer team in one of the most important cities of the world.”

Beckham’s latest setback with his proposal came in 2014, after a 25,000 capacity stadium was rejected and his push for a fourth Miami competitive side has not been easy. Miami politicians have rejected stadium applications twice for Beckham’s franchise and a proposal was made for his side to be based at Florida International University on a temporary basis.

Maldini’s Miami will become the third soccer side in the city, alongside Miami United and Miami Fusion, who both play in the National Premier Soccer League Sunshine Conference. Fusion formerly played in MLS until 2002.

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Miami FC were described as the ‘city’s only professional soccer club’ in an NASL statement, which is a blow for Beckham.

The former United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star is set to meet today with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and outgoing University of Miami president, Donna Shalala, about the possibility of a partnering on a football/soccer stadium.

Beckham needs his proposal to take a forward step as he is risking losing his expansion slot with a whole host of potential teams lining up to join MLS.

Don’t miss: Don Garber give fresh encouragement to MLS expansion hopefuls

Miami FC’s announcement yesterday has only intensified pressure on Beckham’s proposal to bring MLS to Miami.

Has Maldini’s Miami FC dealt a huge blow to Beckham and is this the start of a rivalry between two footballing greats?

Don Garber gives fresh encouragement to MLS expansion hopefuls

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has given fresh encouragement to prospective MLS franchise St. Louis by branding it as having a “great soccer market”.

Garber has met with public officials and business leaders in St. Louis to discuss the possibility of a new franchise being based in the city. Although he made it abundantly clear that any franchise would not happen before 2020.

“This is a city that just loves the sport and has so many people committed to it,” Garber told the St.Louis Post Dispatch on Tuesday. He went on to say: “We really hope to work with them.

“This is a soccer town. We’ve never been able to even think hard about a real opportunity to be here. We’ve got a lot of work to do before we get here. But we think that there is a possibility. And that is really what today’s all about. It’s our first fact-finding mission.

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“Right now, we know there are three things that matter: A strong, passionate soccer city – this certainly is. A great stadium plan – there’s an interesting one being developed. And I think there will be no shortage of people who will be interested in owning a team.”

St. Louis looks increasingly likely to join MLS at some point and it seems that Commissioner Garber is very much open to having an expansion franchise based there.

Would you like to see an MLS expansion franchise in St. Louis? 

Don Garber: MLS has ‘total belief’ in latest expansion franchise Minnesota United FC

Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber strongly believes that the latest expansion franchise to be revealed, Minnesota United FC, will succeed as they represent everything that is spurring the growth of MLS.

Minnesota United FC were officially announced as the league’s 23rd expansion franchise on Wednesday afternoon and will enter the league by 2018 at the latest.

It’s a fascinating turnaround of fortunes for Minnesota United, who currently play in the NASL, as the club almost ceased from existence two years ago.

Uncertainty had surrounded soccer in Minnesota for years and after changing team names, league’s and ownership several times, Dr. Bill McGuire came in to save the club in November 2012.

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“[The owners] are totally committed,” Garber said at Wednesday’s expansion announcement from Target Field. “They love this game, they love this city and they’ve got a great plan for a building.

“They represent exactly what we want and what we need to continue this momentum that we have, that’s really stimulating the growth of our league.”

Don’t Miss: EXCLUSIVE: Minnesota United’s ‘Dark Clouds’ on MLS dream

Garber and the people at the top of the MLS pyramid chose Minnesota as the 23rd expansion franchise despite solid bids from Sacramento Republic, Las Vegas and a second one from Minnesota headed by the NFL’s Vikings ownership.

And the decision to award the latest MLS expansion slot to Minnesota United FC is something the MLS Commissioner thinks will go down as a great one.

“We have total belief in the Twin Cities. This is a market that is young, that is diverse, that has more people riding their bicycles around than they do in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn is a pretty hip place.

“It has an incredible international flair too. It is a city that represents all of the things that we have been able to capitalize on that are allowing our league to be a sport for a new America. It’s diverse, it’s young and it is empowered by people who are the next generation of great sports fans.”

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United are set to enter MLS in time for the start of the 2018 season but could come in a year earlier, depending on developments with LAFC and their stadium plans, though Garber admitted that the date of entry had nothing to do with David Beckham’s proposed Miami franchise.

“It could be as early as 2017. We have a number of moving pieces. That’s part of the dynamic with a young sports league. The target is no later than ‘18 and it could be as early as 2017.

“Los Angeles is coming into our league and they are either ’17 or ’18 and Minnesota will be either ’17 or ’18. It’s not related to Miami.”

Will Minnesota United FC take MLS by storm when they enter the league in the next three years?

EXCLUSIVE: Minnesota United’s ‘Dark Clouds’ on MLS dream

Minnesota United FC are set to become the latest Major League Soccer expansion franchise when MLS Commissioner Don Garber and United owner Dr. Bill McGuire make the announcement on Wednesday afternoon, and that means another set of passionate supporters are set to enter the league too.

Minnesota United’s largest and oldest supporters group is the Dark Clouds and they have followed the team through thick and thin since they were formed in 2004. They are delighted that the club is finally on its way into MLS and cannot wait for the next era.

“It’s hard not to see the place in MLS as vital,” the Dark Clouds’ President Jim Oliver told MLSGB’s Louis East. “Minnesota’s had second division soccer for going on 26 years now, so we’ve had a team to support for a long time and have managed to survive through lean economic times and fraudsters for owners.
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“Despite that long history though, the competition for getting the rights to the MLS franchise in Minnesota might have put another club in United’s geographic area, which would have spelled doom for our club. That’s why it was so important for United to go for the MLS spot, and why we’re so pleased that our owner Dr. McGuire and his partners were willing to make the commitment.”

Some members of the Dark Clouds have been waiting for as long as two decades for their MLS dream to come true so the fact that United are set to become the league’s 23rd club is certainly something they’ve earned.

“MLS has been around for 20 years, so there’s definitely some among us who’ve been waiting that long,” Oliver added.

“Honestly we’ve been happy to support a lower-division club since the founding of the Dark Clouds 12 years ago, but nobody can say that you don’t dream of the quality players, stadiums and competition that the top flight provides.

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“For the Dark Clouds, we’re excited about all the attention MLS will bring and how it’ll help us to expand the charitable work that our group does. We’ve supported local soccer-related causes for years, and it’ll be great to hopefully turn that trickle of volunteerism and cash donation into a flood.”

Minnesota United’s official website claims: “We are industrious and built around the idea that hard work yields the greatest rewards. We are strong and getting stronger. We are United.”

More of those rewards are just around the corner now. An MLS franchise could enter the league within the next three years and United fans will hope to dominate in the top flight the same way they have done in the NASL over the past four years.

The NASL started it’s second chapter in 2011, and Minnesota United won the championship at the end of that first season. United then won the NASL Spring Championship last season and will look to enter MLS in style by continuing to dominate the second-tier of US Soccer until then.

Minnesota United celebrate winning the 2014 NASL Spring Championship (Photo: NASL.com)

Minnesota United celebrate winning the 2014 NASL Spring Championship (Photo: NASL.com)

“We’re expecting big things from United,” Oliver continued. “The ownership group has show a commitment to really raise the level even in the second division, bringing in great players and staff and systems that kept us firmly on top of the table last year.”

“There’s no other second division club in this country that commits resources to things like preseason tours (England last year and Brazil this year) and signings on the level we’ve seen from United in recent years. Dr. McGuire wants a dominant side and he’s done what it takes to build one. We can’t wait to see that in MLS.”

Are you looking forward to seeing Minnesota United enter MLS as the latest expansion franchise?