Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, looking for a 20th team to join the league, has his focus on securing a second New York franchise, but announced there has plenty of other interest should those plans be unsuccessful.
Ahead of the new MLS season kicking off this weekend, Garber speaking at his annual state of the league address, in which he was believed to be the first commissioner of a major sports league to address media and fans via a live Google+ Hangout, Garber maintained the League’s New York focus. MLS has previously outlined its hope that a 20th team will begin play at the start of the 2016 season at a new stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park at a 10-acre site– creating a rivalry with the New York Red Bulls. Discussing the New York project, Garber said: “If we’re not successful we’ll throw our hands up, take a step back and see if there’s another market. I don’t want to put a year limit on it but if it’s not making progress, the time will come. There’s a lot of activity in other markets. It’s the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced, but this is an incredibly valuable market. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, so it’s worth the effort.”
Garber specifically mentioned Miami, Minneapolis, Orlando, and Atlanta as markets in which remains in discussions. Orlando City is currently competing in the USL Professional Division, the third tier of US football, but is making a strong claim for MLS status with the league having no representation in the Southeast region of the United States. Orlando’s prospects were boosted last month when the team announced a deal that will see wealthy Brazilian businessman Flávio Augusto da Silva become a major investor in the club. Silva’s investment will be used for the club’s share of a private/publicly funded multi-purpose soccer stadium in downtown Orlando and future acquisition of an MLS franchise. Commenting on the stadium bid, Garber said: “If they’re able to achieve that, it makes them an even more viable candidate than they are today.”
In addition, Garber stated MLS is continuing towards its objective of being acknowledged as one of the world’s top leagues within the next ten years. The 2022 date was originally pinpointed to coincide with the United States potentially hosting the FIFA World Cup and Garber said: “By 2022. That’s our goal. I’m not saying we’ll be the biggest league in the world but we believe we will be one of the top leagues.” He added: “There is no reason that in time Major League Soccer can’t be competitive with the world’s best. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and continued investment.”
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