MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke for over an hour today in his "State of the League" address that is part of the week leading to MLS Cup every year. He touched on every topic you could consider to include minutiae like admitting that having Landon Donovan listed as a Forward in awards balloting was a mistake that the league would "correct." They did so by making him a midfielder and adding him to the Best XI list.
Expansion and Rivalries
He called out the success of Cascadia as a reason to explore expansion into New York city.
The phenomenon in the Pacific Northwest is something that we never could have dreamed of. We have debates now with our clubs and their supporters as to how many tickets they're going to have access to for away travel. From 500 tickets to many more that they're looking for.
The interest and the passion in the Pacific Northwest have driven our television ratings because Seattle is one of our biggest draws, even though it's not one of our biggest markets.
Rivalries do matter. Particularly, if you're a soccer fan, you know that is a big part of being a passionate supporter. While we have been focused at broadening our footprint here and in Canada, we do believe we need to have more rivalries, and that second team in New York will help us do that.
And while NY2 seems nearly certain to happen. It won't be the end. He mentions the need to be in the South.
Prediction: The South comes almost at once, with three or more teams in a short stretch. Add immediate close rivals to aid their growth.
But then there's that issue about the Playoffs, and constant change. Are they even necessary?
We will never do away with playoffs. There is absolutely no reason to do it. We will always have playoffs.
The question is do we have playoffs that are constructed differently. Do we add games? Do we make the playoffs longer? All of these things can happen in a single-table format. Right now we believe conferences are good, but we’ll look at that construction, too.
He's frustrated with the tinkering, but knows that as a growing league, that they will have to continue to do so.
Prediction: Minor changes to the current structure. He, and TV viewers, like Conference Championships. This also happens to lend itself to having an even number of Conferences, and in fact an unbalanced schedule. Or, a 10 Western and 8 Eastern breakdown with a balanced schedule next year, and Playoff qualifiers by Conference alone.
But those Playoff winners get the reward of going to Champions League. MLS doesn't have a great history in the Champions League current format. Sigi recognized that in his end of season review.
It’s something that we want to be because we want to be in those competitions. I think over the years, and again you don’t adjust to it in one year, but over the years you sort of adjust to it. Houston has been doing it for a lot of years and was successful early on. [. . .] Certainly with Portland and Vancouver coming in next year, there’s a couple of games that we don’t have to fly to and that are in our time zone, so that helps as well. And we will have had the experience of having gone through what we went through this year, which will make it easier next year. Unfortunately, with 34 league games next year is what it looks like and then maybe eight games again in CONCACAF we are going to be somewhere between 42-46 games again. It’s just something that we have to get used to and figure out a better way to be a little sharper, a little more refreshed at the end
Maybe though the commissioner, the board of directors and thereby the League make things a bit easier for teams like Seattle who are in the CCL. Considering how being in the CCL hurts chances for Playoff advancement, things are going to change.
Prediction: The Allocation bonus for advancement gets approved, not easily, but it will be approved. In 2010 there was a total of 10M$ of allocation money available as "non-cap" funds. A bonus of 100K$ per round won't destroy league competition, but it could help. Imagine one extra Brad Evans type player for a team like Los Angeles; one extra Alvaro Fernandez type player for teams like Toronto FC and Seattle; an extra Nate Jaqua type player for teams like Real Salt Lake or Columbus Crew.
The not-really-a-secret return of the Reserve League was completely verified today. The extra roster spots were verified (spots 26-30 will be off cap for 24 and unders). They will get meaningful games, but not a lot. Just 10 games against "regional rivals.' In Seattle's case that's probably all of the Pacific Time Zone teams.
Everyone on the roster will be a pro, or tied to a pro future. Senior team members that haven't gotten playing time, due to injury or the numbers game, Reserve/Developmental players, and good to great Academy players as well.
This new Reserve Division will be a major improvement on the one we had a few years ago. We recognized that we had some challenges when we launched it a few years ago.
But I tell you, even though we had those challenges, a number of our teams at the highest level, our playoff teams, had key players who probably would not be in Major League Soccer if it wasn't for the former Reserve Division.
Omar Cummings started as a reserve player for the Rapids in '07. He only saw action in 11 games with the first team. He's now one of the most exciting young players in Major League Soccer. Jeff Larentowicz, of the Rapids is an All Star now. His first season was as a reserve (he played in only one first-team match his rookie year).
Chris Wondolowski , what a great story he is. Our Budweiser Golden Boot winner (in 2010), he was the all-time leading scorer during the four years of our Reserve Division, and he had 31 goals (in the Reserve Division). And he probably wouldn't be in MLS without the Reserve Division.
With a Senior Team, and two Academy teams, who will coach the Reserves?
Currently, it would seem that would be someone currently on staff.
But do they really have someone who is great at developing the college age players? Those that are 18-24? Let's look at the current coaching staff.
Sigi Schmid - Head Coach
Brian Schmetzer - First Assistant
Ezra Hendrickson - Assistant
Tom Dutra - Keepers
Kurt Schmid - Assistant and Scout
Chris Henderson - Technical Director
Richard McCormick - Head Coach
Mark Boyes - Assistant
Sean Henderson - Assistant
William Crook - Assistant
Darren Sawatzky - Technical Director
Prediction: The Sounders will hire one more coach, but not as the head of the Reserves, but someone who is dedicated to work with them on a full-time basis. Garber mentioned with pride several times the players that have gone from veteran to head coach. Where better to start than with an MLS Reserve team? There are a few vets that would make sense in that role. I have my favorite for it now.
Here is a second link to the full transcript again.