I thought the most interesting thing commissioner Don Garber said in his conference call with MLS media Monday was that the league might be moving MLS Cup from neutral sites and onto the home pitch of the higher-seeded team.
“There is support here in the league to really strongly consider moving MLS Cup … into a market where the team that earns the right to host it does so,” he said. “We obviously have a lot of logistical challenges that we’re working through to figure out if we’re able to pull it off: can you get hotel rooms, do you have access to stadiums, and the like. Years ago it really wasn’t possiblity because we didn’t have enough stadiums where we could even control the date. … We also had a handful of markets where we questioned whether we’d be able to get the support. (Now) I don’t believe that there’s any market in this country where if they got MLS Cup wouldn’t be able to do a really terrific job in a short period of time and get a very, very big passionate fan base.”
I have more about that in our Tuesday paper. Meanwhile, here are 11 other topics Garber touched upon:
2. The league’s collective bargaining agreement with its players expires Jan. 31. Negotiations have been going on for six months with what Garber characterized as typical ebb and flow. However, the commissioner stressed that the league believes it is in compliance with FIFA regulations, and he implied MLS would rather endure a work stoppage than sign a bad contract.
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3. MLS will retain its conference format next season.
4. Philadelphia is approaching 8,500 season tickets for its inaugural 2010 season.
5. Any change in the league’s designated player rules will be part of the collective bargaining agreement.
6. The renovated BC Place stadium should be ready early enough in 2011 for the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps to avoid use of an interim home. He added that the new roofing system for the stadium could become a model for other MLS franchises playing in oversized stadiums.
7. MLS expects to expand to 20 teams and then reassess its ideal size. Garber said there have been “productive” discussions about Montreal becoming the 19th team, but that there are no discussions or timetables regarding the 20th team.
8. He is dismayed about the lower-division USL splitting into competing leagues, and he said he hopes the two sides will mend their differences before their spring seasons. 9. It is “very important” that the New York Red Bulls become a successful franchise. Garber said he believes New York ownership is “going to get it right,” and he called the new Red Bulls Arena “among the best small stadiums in the world.”
10. Kansas City expects to break ground on a soccer-specific stadium by the end of the year. However, Garber said there has been less progress toward new stadiums in New England, the Washington/Baltimore area, San Jose and Houston. The commissioner said Houston could become “another Seattle” with a soccer-specific downtown stadium.
11. The league will consider simplifying its playoff tie-breaking procedure.
12. MLS television ratings went up this season, and he attributed the 2 percent attendance drop to the economy.