Tuesday, October 03, 2006

MLS: 20 Questions for Don Garber

Here are 20 questions posted on Big Soccer Recenlty:

1. What conditions/situations would need to exist in order for MLS to go from the current single entity structure to a franchise system as seen in MLB, NFL, etc.? Will the single-entity structure change much within the next 5 years?

MLS NOTE: There were many similar questions about single-entity.

2. One question in many parts: How seriously is MLS pursuing the "academy" concept? Is what Chicago and RBNY have now the ideal, or are you going to try to encourage teams to build true academies in the style of Boca Juniors, Barcelona or West Ham? And if so, will these be funded by the league or directly by the teams? How far away are we from finding out the status of the "youth player rights" system that was referenced at all-star time? Is there anything that you can tell us on that front?

MLS NOTE: Youth development/the academy concept was a very popular topic with multiple questions.

3. What information can you provide in regards to the MFL/MLS tournament (CONCACAF Champions League?) next summer?

4. Regardless of the rumored "Beckham Exception", are there plans to increase the salary cap so that MLS can be at least competitive with lower-tier European leagues like Denmark and Norway?

5. What is the status of expansion

MLS NOTE: There were many on expansion from Philadelphia, Seattle, Atlanta, Miami, San Antonio, Austin, etc. Commissioner Garber will address these markets and more.

6. Also, is the 16-team limit a temporary one or one that you see lasting for a decade?

7. Three points to pose one question:

Aa. Many have brought light to a crowded schedule the MLS season and playoffs and US Open Cup face.

Bb. Many are currently unhappy about the playoff design.

Cc. Finally, lots of soccer 'traditionalists' or 'purists' believe a single table without playoffs is the only way to appropriately create buzz in the regular season and fairly crown a champion.

The question:

If you accept these as true, or even true in part, what do you think about the possibility of:

1) Scrapping the MLS playoffs

2) Crowning the MLS regular season league champion (MLS Cup Winner)

3) Entering the four top clubs into the Quarterfinals of a redesigned US Open Cup

You formed a "competition committee" at the start of the year, to address many things, but most importantly the competition format. Gazidis said we might see big changes in 2007. What is the status of that committee and have they made any recommendations yet?

8. What is MLS' marketing strategy - and why does the league appear to pick a different slogan/theme each year versus sticking with one over time? The "Colors" ads were weak - and downright silly - regardless of the hip hop star voiceover. "It's your game" was the best of the bunch - but there is no consistency year-to-year which gives the impression that MLS doesn't know who and what it's going after.

9. Is there a plan to improve the quality of refereeing in MLS? What kind of review do referees do after the games? Are there penalties/fines/etc for egregious errors like the goal call for RSL where the ball clearly did not cross the line or the numerous non-calls on physical play that is causing players to be injured?

10. Years ago, MLS had a number of well-known international players who were "worth the price of admission": Carlos Valderrama, Roberto Donadoni, Hristo Stoichkov, etc. But today, those types of players are few and far between: Youri Djorkaeff, Paco Palencia, and that's about it. Does MLS have plans to increase the number of high-caliber international players in the league, either via the proposed Beckham exception or by some other means?

11. Chivas USA adopts an attacking football philosophy. As a result, many of their games are very entertaining. If all teams play attacking football, the playing field would be level and the number of entertaining games would increase. Should other MLS teams adopt attacking football philosophy? (there is a poll on MLS General Forum and about 75% voted for this adoption).

12. Understanding the need to recoup some of the large losses that MLS owners have incurred, and the amount of cash needed to build soccer-specific stadia, at what point can MLS fans expect owners to shift their focus to significantly improving the on-field talent? Next year? 2010? 2020?

13. There is near-unanimous consensus amongst MLS fans and the soccer media alike that having eight teams in the playoffs both cheapens the value of the regular season and makes a mockery of the "prize" of qualifying for the postseason. Why does MLS continue to stick to this system despite the overwhelming opinion that cutting the number of teams in half would increase the quality of the season and the playoffs?

14. We have seen MLS clubs move away from some of the original and in my opinion terrible names they started out with (Burn, Clash, Mutiny) to more "classic" soccer names such as DC United, FC Dallas, Toronto FC, CD Chivas USA, and Real Salt Lake. I believe this is a good thing as it helps soccer stand out among a highly competitive and crowded American sport's market place and make the league sound more respectable internationally. A name that says soccer, sells soccer. Will we see these classic type names continue with expansion clubs?

15. I'm a 25 year old girl who believes more could be done to market some of the hot guys of MLS to women my age. I attended my first MLS match at 14 after my older sister took me to see a match in DC because she had a thing for another team's player. MLS in my opinion is missing out by not having more of a cross media footprint for some of these guys. Why no late night talk shows or cameo appearances in music videos or appearances at music or film awards? Stars are made in this country mostly through exposure as much as or more so than actual performance. If MLS want's "stars" they need not buy Beckham, instead just get Alex Yi, Clint Dempsey, Jamie Moreno, Shavar Thomas, Dwayne DeRosario and Jeff Cunningham's faces out there more. Are there any plans to do this?

16. David Stern, your NBA counterpart, has suggested that interactive technology will enable the league to provide viewers more options on how the game appears on their television. I'm not sure just what he means, but I wonder if MLS has any dedicated effort or long-term vision to improve the way games are broadcast (e.g., replays, on-screen "chalkboard," cameras that don't just follow the ball, knowledgeable commentators) so that both novice fans and purists can get the most out of the experience.

17. When do you foresee that each soccer club in MLS will be able to decide which players it buys and sells? And with the club keeping 100% of the income? Also, what is the actual amount of latitude that teams have in signing and transferring players? There have been many rumors or stories about the MLS blocking a transfer or owners blocking a transfer. It is a mutual decision or is there a person with the final say? In the same vein, has there been any discussion of allowing scraping the allocation system and going to a system where individual teams can purchase players on transfer and amortize the transfer fee over the life of the contract in regards to their salary cap number?

MLS NOTE: Question #17 is a fusion of a few questions posted.

18. Will the league ever take control of broadcasting team's matches or at least make it mandatory? I hate the fact some teams can choose not to broadcast their road games.

19. Is there a plan to add a weekly team bonus for winning games and/or scoring goals? The added incentive may help players push harder for goals and wins in each game and the added intensity may draw more spectators to the games. Thank You.

20. What are your favorite musicians/bands, movies and TV shows?

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