Reading from a hand-edited speech originally drafted in 2007, MLS Commissioner Don Garber once again declared victory over bankruptcy and apathy during the annual State of the League address Tuesday. His rambling speech, billed as "five, maybe 10 minutes of comments" mushroomed to more than 23 minutes of focus-grouped catch-phrases culled from previous year's addresses, a sort of live-action dance remix of The Garber Years, delighting the attentive audience of journalists anxious to file the same story as last year and get down to some serious drinking.
Regular folks, unexcited by the marshmallow fluff of Garber's opening remarks, found more to chew on in the question-and-answer period:
- MLS' endless metastisizing will continue to at least 24 teams, and possibly beyond, with Miami, Atlanta, Minneapolis, San Antonio and St. Louis picked out as possible targets for expansion.
- This despite TV ratings that remain flat, at best - ESPN's ratings for MLS have fallen through the floor, down 29 percent in one year. "Our appeal has grown more ... selective," Garber most certainly did not say.
- They'll need those expansion fees to continue to invest in youth development at the current pace - $20 million per year was the amount Garber quoted, or one-fifth of NYCFC's expansion fee.
- Also on the development front, apparently MLS leaning on the NCAA to stop playing insane grassketball soccer. Countdown clock, sub in/sub out, please step into the disintegration booth. When a cartel meets a cartel, coming through the rye ...
- Remember when MLS gave out that document about all their roster rules, and it didn't have half the rules we already knew about? Yeah, about that ... they're working on it, apparently. "Transparency hasn't been in our DNA," Garber admitted. Remember how retention funds just sort of magically appeared when LA needed to re-sign Omar Gonzalez? Or how ‘DPs don't go through allocation' was always true retroactively once Clint Dempsey realized Seattle really would give him the gilded DeLorean of his dreams? Well, expect less of that, apparently - Don's on the case.
- Apparently, they're still thinking about a fall-spring schedule, despite admitting that a 10- to 12-week break would be a necessity in North America. If only there were established leagues in this hemisphere who had some kind of working model of a two-part calendar, then maybe we could start to get somewhere with this discussion. I don't know, just spitballing here, but maybe an ‘opening' season, and a ‘closing' season? Don't worry - it'll be focus-grouped. Get ready for the Legends fall season, followed by El Clásico in the spring.