Lost in the whole "actually playing the game" thing was my penchant to declare that this is NOT MLS 2.0. Seattle, nor Toronto, were not the continuation of Garber's first era, but the start of something different.
Garber's first era was to throw out silly rule changes, not format changes, but RULE changes. It was to contract and then grow, but slowly. Garber's first era ended with the Beckham Rule and expansion into Canada.
MLS 3.0, or Garber's second, is quite different. Finances are fairly strong for soccer. There will be 3 teams in the Northwest, four teams in ACELA, three teams in Canada, up to three DPs, and as of today the Academy takes on new importance.
In the past twelve months MLS has expanded the Home Grown Player rule from 2 to 4 to oh-my-god-seriously?
OMGS, is a current declaration that there is no limit. There is of course a limit. We don't know what it is, but it isn't meek. It isn't small. It is likely something like 50 or more players, but that's purely functional limited by the number of players who could get useful time at the Senior, Reserve, Academy 18 and Academy 16 levels.
The Cap just got a ton softer. HGPs don't count towards it. Is Sean Okoli all that? If so, he can be offered a contract?
Has Darren Swatzky found the next Kasey Keller? Sign him!
A change to the catchment area has not been announced, so we may still be stuck with an Academy that serves a 50 mile radius from Qwest, with 2 exception at each age group.
50 miles from Qwest? That's pretty much the entire Metro Area of Seattle, plus some more. It includes a couple Naval Bases, Joint Base Lewis/McChord, Tacoma, Bellevue, Everett, Renton, North Bend. You know that huge number of kids playing soccer that was part of the justification for awarding the Sounders to Seattle? Roughly 50% of that populace is right here.
The changes don't stop there. MLS has a higher salary cap than ever before. Teams are treating young and rising stars as appropriate long term investments, rather than just the aging players of past. Alvaro Fernandez, Fredy Montero, Alvaro Sabario, these are the names of the future of the league. With three DPs available a team is no longer forced to watch Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark see greener pastures. They could have been kept here.
There's also change at lower levels. Canada will not be sanctioning additional teams in either the NASL, USLPro, nor the PDL. Sure, the top of our pyramids are intertwined, but it looks unlikely for the minor leagues.
Tomorrow, Don Garber will have his annual State of the League Address. He will likely cover things like the Reserve League, the expansion of the Home Grown Player Rule. He may talk about further expansion, a new Playoff format.
One thing is certain. He won't be talking about what MLS was. He will be talking about what it WILL BE.
Welcome to the most exciting off-season in MLS history. Two new teams. A Reserve League that makes sense. Dramatic new rules to encourage development of talent. A new TV contract, or two.