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Commissioner's Comments

Insider: Have you smoothed out your relationship with Tom Soehn after he made critical comments about things you said concerning DCU's performance in the first match against Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup semifinals?

Don Garber: "I don't know if it is a matter of smoothing them out. Tommy gave me a call [afterward] and I think he probably would have hoped those comments were not made public [by him]. My comments were very specific to what kind of things we need to do as a league to ensure that our clubs can achieve their visions, and in this case, DCU's vision of being a dominant team in this region. My comments were not at all a criticism of the club itself. Some people interpreted it that way, but that's not what my intent was. I think we need to look in the offseason as to what changes we can make, if any, to ensure teams that perform well during the season are not penalized by having more games, particularly at the early part of the season when teams are coming together and those games become important. Our goal as a league is to ensure that our teams are successful regionally."

Insider: So perhaps next spring, as the new Champions League enters the late stages, MLS teams still in contention will have a lighter league schedule?

Garber: "There is nothing we can do about Champions League when it starts this fall; it's more about next spring and what we might be able to do for '09. There is a lot of work that we need to do to figure out what those accommodations could be. We have not addressed the specifics yet. I know it is frustrating to me when our teams are not able to be successful in the early part of the year but, as we have proven in SuperLiga, we are able to be more successful at a time of the year when our teams are at full strength and they are seasoned."

So to recap, the four MLS teams (DCU, HOU, CHV, NE) participating in this summer's SuperLiga, in which MLS has a financial stake, will have a lighter league schedule. But when Champions League begins in August for Chivas USA and New England, and then continues with the group stage between Sept. 16 and Oct. 30 with six matches apiece for DCU, Houston and perhaps Chivas and New England, there will be no schedule relief. (The number of games would not be such an issue if clubs had the salary cap space to improve their senior rosters, but that's a discussion for another day.)

With his comments, Garber has essentially pledged to find a way to ease the league calendar for MLS clubs that reach the Champions League knockout rounds. But don't read too much into it because the fixture dates for both legs of the quarterfinals (late February and early March), as well as the first game in the semifinals (mid-March), are before the 2009 MLS season begins. The only potential conflicts would be the second semifinal (early April) and the two-game finals (late April).

Since MLS finalizes its tightly fit league schedule around Feb. 1 each year, the big question is this: If an MLS club reaches the semifinals (and you've got to figure there will be at least one), will the league have the courage and flexibility to alter its calendar on short notice and ease the strain on a team pursuing a regional championship and a berth in the Club World Cup?

By Steve Goff  |  May 7, 2008; 10:25 AM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Comments

The league will not be flexible on short notice. The teams will have to be willing to just play scrubs in the early league matches.
I think DC got caught trying to straddle the fence the last two years and we failed to start well or advance to the final so PICK ONE and go for it.

Posted by: jgildea | May 7, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

It's too bad MLS doesn't (or does it?) have the money to create a bit deeper rosters.
I am sure a lot of the "scrubs" would possibly work a bit harder in the offseason so that they could impress when they get their chances early in the League season, probably get some of the guys who think they are a shoe in to show up in better shape as well?

Posted by: Dadryan | May 7, 2008 10:56 AM | Report abuse

2009 Stadiums

Home Depot Center = Chivas and LAG
RSL Park = RSL
Toyota = Chicago
Buck Shaw = SJE
BMO = TFC
DSG = Rapids
CCS = Crew
PHP = FC Dallas
RFK = DCU

That leaves Revolution, Houston, Seattle, RBNY, Kansas City in parks that they don't REALLY control the dates that they schedule.

A few years back, when the whole, we may be shift our calendar debate was ingnited by the Don, he mentioned that the venues, aside from their obvious presentation/experience/financial aspects provided clubs the ability to schedule how they want rather than as the tenant in a place that is granted certain dates to play games. Heck - in 4 years time, I imagine the schedulers for the league will have a FAR easier time if you figure that DCU and Houston get something worked out, you have Philly, New York, and KC come online leaving only Seattle and Revs as date constrained teams.

The weight of the schedule is unberable at times, but the beyond the ability to keep teams fresh for these competitions is the ability to get these teams "in-season"
for the money parts of these tournaments.

I think the Don is being very fair in this and will look at it with an aim towards helping, rather than hurting.

I still love the single table idea, but I can also see how a split season would work (just backwards for our Apertura and Clausura).

Posted by: Virginia Blue Blood | May 7, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

The desire to schedule-at-will in SSS owned by the teams has as much or more to do with television schedules as it does with league and tournament schedules.

Posted by: Mickey | May 7, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Other leagues do make schedule changes, sometimes very late, to help teams in international competitions. Recently, the SPL did made some schedule changes to support Rangers in their UEFA Cup run, but then balked at actually extending the SPL season (http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story?id=532373&cc=5901).

Posted by: Postmaster | May 7, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, MLS should look at what the SPL did with the Rangers recently and do the exact opposite. 8 matches in 17 days is insane.

Right now, the league is in it's infancy and any accomindations made for a team in DCUs shoes or the Rangers shoes should be made. The brand needs to be furthered internationally and the only way to do that is to support terams 100%. While the league doesnt have a financial interest in the CONCACAF Champions League, you can rest assured that there will be even MORE political backlash than there was this year if something like this happens again. The league should be jumping all over TV rights and trying to publicize the new CCL this year in the states.

The CCL is going to be great for us and every teram in the region. Copa Sudamericana and Fifa Club World Championship places are on the line. The reward from SuperLiga doesnt touch that.

Posted by: strago | May 7, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Who are the TV partners for SuperLiga and CCL?

Posted by: dcchilidog | May 7, 2008 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Garber/M[afia]LS won't change any schedules for any CONCACAF tournament until they get a piece of the action. They own SuperLiga, so no problem with clearing out all of July for that. CONCACAF=Jack Walker=a small slice for MLS=no go and no care.

Posted by: Don Stollazo | May 7, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Jack Warner.

Posted by: Don Stollazo | May 7, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

You'd think that letting teams in the new Champions League add three or four players wouldn't be a big deal. It probably wouldn't take more than that. Otherwise they will do badly in either or even both competitions. It's pretty much inevitable.

Posted by: Martin B | May 7, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse

If it takes courage the answer is no. The league can be flexible to make more money. Since Garber and crew either don't care or understand the competitive aspects of the game they will not accomodate the teams in the CONCACAF CL. In their minds it will be way too risky.

Posted by: Tommie | May 7, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

-----
Who are the TV partners for SuperLiga and CCL?
------

In the US, Univision (and it's TeleFutura & Galavision) is the presenting TV partner with both the SUM-controlled SuperLiga, and the Concacaf-controlled CCL.

Posted by: TV | May 7, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Great job as always Steve. You've hit on the two big issues - inflexible MLS schedule and lack of roster depth due to the salary cap. My gripe - couldn't Garber and Co. have forseen the congestion in the fall schedule for the four teams in the champions league (lower case since it's not the real CL)? Let's review for DCU:

9/13 - vs FC Dallas
9/16-18 - 1st CL match
9/20 - @ LA Gals
9/23-25 - 2nd CL match
9/28 - @ FC Dallas
9/30-10/2 - 3rd CL match
10/4 - vs Chivas USA
10/7-9 - 4th CL match
10/12 - @ Houston
10/16 - vs NE Revs
10/21-23 - 5th CL match
10/26 - @ Col. Crew
10-28-30 - 6th CL match

For those keeping score at home, that 13 matches (CL plus the MLS stretch run) in 6 1/2 weeks, including some international travel, with the playoffs to follow very soon after. And Garber & Co. didn't see this coming?

Posted by: BillyBob | May 7, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

-----
In the US, Univision (and it's TeleFutura & Galavision) is the presenting TV partner with both the SUM-controlled SuperLiga, and the Concacaf-controlled CCL.
-----

So no more FSC? Not sure whether that's good or bad...

Posted by: Juan-John | May 7, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

It isn't the size of the roster that counts. Seriously.

What goods a few extra roster spots, unless the league is also willing to give significant extra cap room, too.

Money is more important than size. Never forget that.

Posted by: Fisch Fry | May 7, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

"I still love the single table idea, but I can also see how a split season would work (just backwards for our Apertura and Clausura)."

Posted by: Virginia Blue Blood | May 7, 2008 10:57 AM

Something else where Garber & Co. will miss the boat - no later than 2010, go to a single table with home and home fixtures against each team - you know, like the rest of the civilized soccer world. 16 teams, 30 games - it couldn't work better. Now if we could just get promotion and relegation in the mix.

Posted by: BillyBob | May 7, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Juan-John,

I think FSC has the english language right within the US. The other networks have the spanish rights.

Regardless, Christian Miles sucks in any language.

Posted by: Erick | May 7, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

More cap space would probably be needed before increased number of senior roster spots, but to be competitive in a congested table both would need some increasing.

More money (cap room) = better starting XI and possible depth
More roster spots = just a bigger team
More $$ and senior spots = team equipped for domestic and international competition

Is anyone else concerned about the rapid expansion of the league, adding 4 teams over 4 years? Is it possible we'll be diluting the sparse talent that exists in the league? At the same time spreading out the financial support more thin...or does more markets automatically equate to more $$$? If that's the case, The Don should seriously look at the cap situation and the number of senior roster spots.

Posted by: Redd | May 7, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know who I can talk to in reference to become a dc united ticket sales representative?

Posted by: dc fan | May 7, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"Is anyone else concerned about the rapid expansion of the league, adding 4 teams over 4 years? Is it possible we'll be diluting the sparse talent that exists in the league?"

Posted by: Redd | May 7, 2008 1:02 PM
-------------------------------------------

Everyone is concerned about that. It's a given that the league will have to allow clubs to sign additional international players. There also will probably be a call to add an additional DP slot, though some of the smaller market teams might have some objection, since they may have trouble attracting DP-level talent.

The justification for adding teams is that the added reach of the league would make it a more attractive TV product -- bring in more revenues in future TV and sponsorship deals. Of course, it the product on the field doesn't get any better, the difference will be marginal. A more exciting, higher quality product will likely do more to increase the league's ratings than anything else. There are people who would go to more games, and watch more on TV, if the games were worth watching. People like me.

Posted by: Fisch Fry | May 7, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

The single table idea? If you think the MLS is going to eliminate the playoff system, you're living in a fantasy. IF you think a single table looks cooler, I suppose the MLS could satisfy you there, but it would make the regular season/playoffs system look silly (the NHL figured that out years ago). And the playoffs aren't going away - at least not for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: Fisch Fry | May 7, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Commish:
"it's more about next spring and what we might be able to do for '09. There is a lot of work that we need to do to figure out what those accommodations could be."

What BS from Garber. Had the problem for 2 years already and are still trying to figure out what to do????? Seems to me the man is talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Posted by: JMR | May 7, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Solid work on the Gallardo piece and strong questions to the Commish. As always, excellent work, SG.

Posted by: Kosh | May 7, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

it's possible to have both a single table in the regular season (to crown the supporters shield winner) with a simple H/A schedule and still have a post-season playoff in MLS.

regardless, the issues of how MLS schedules its league matches (and how it should/must confront or ideally avoid all the other "international" club and country fixtures on the calendar) is a real challenge for the league.

hopefully they're up to "improving" the scheduling situation each year until it becomes "acceptable" to everyone (if that's possible).

currently there are a lot of "issues" with the schedule MLS sets, and they claim a lot of things are "beyond their control", but hopefully as the league grows/matures, then the fans will be presented with a more attractive product.

i do think MLS (with Garber as commish) is headed in the right direction on many things. adjustments and corrections just take so much time and no one likes to see the MLS clubs continually "struggle" on the international stage, whatever the reason.

Posted by: great league, major in fact | May 7, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

------
Commish:
"it's more about next spring and what we might be able to do for '09. There is a lot of work that we need to do to figure out what those accommodations could be."

What BS from Garber. Had the problem for 2 years already and are still trying to figure out what to do????? Seems to me the man is talking out of both sides of his mouth.
-------

i do love impatient fans.

MLS as a whole is 13 years young. we can't expect issues/concerns to be magically corrected or even "instantly addressed".

sure it would have been great if more "thought/planning" went into the 2007 or 2008 season, but it is a positive step that the league is looking/hoping to make improvements (or small steps toward improvements) in 2009 (and beyond).

The league has a lot on its plate, in terms of growth and establishment and expansion, and these "scheduling" concerns should be a part of "their business concerns" but I do think the league is being as responsive and adaptive as possible, while still sticking to the wise and prudent approach toward slowly growing their product/teams.

But it is understandable (and required) for fans to want "more" and "better" and want those "now!"

Posted by: asap | May 7, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

"Since MLS finalizes its tightly fit league schedule around Feb. 1 each year, the big question is this: If an MLS club reaches the semifinals (and you've got to figure there will be at least one), will the league have the courage and flexibility to alter its calendar on short notice and ease the strain on a team pursuing a regional championship and a berth in the Club World Cup?"
_____________________________________

Goff,

Why don't you email Garber that question as a follow-up?

Posted by: Oh Susanna | May 7, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The single table idea? If you think the MLS is going to eliminate the playoff system, you're living in a fantasy. IF you think a single table looks cooler, I suppose the MLS could satisfy you there, but it would make the regular season/playoffs system look silly (the NHL figured that out years ago). And the playoffs aren't going away - at least not for the foreseeable future.
Posted by: Fisch Fry | May 7, 2008 1:28 PM
===========
Ahhh no no. NHL and football..apple and orange. It doesn't look silly through out the world. So you are telling us everyone is dumb? What looks silly is play off system not only here in the US but in Mexico even crazier.

Posted by: ff | May 7, 2008 3:34 PM | Report abuse

To ff -- I said a straight table makes a regular season-playoff system look silly. I didn't say that it wasn't the playoffs that look silly. What's the point of the playoffs, if you have a straight table -- that already produces a champion -- why do you need to produce another?

Maintaining conferences at least offers a format where playoffs can make some sense. Then, you have a system to create a championship game between East and West.

You can argue about the value of a playoff system, but if one accepts they are inherently cool and good, then it is the single table that becomes illogical.

Posted by: Fisch Fry | May 7, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe that there are still these idiots who actually believe that promotion/relegation could work in this country for soccer?

Posted by: sgoff | May 7, 2008 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Single table and a balanced schedule, with the top 6 or 8 going to a playoff eliminates having a weaker conference in a given season. And the supporters shield winner has played the same schedule as everyone else.

The top 6 or 8 clubs go to the playoffs. Simple. None of this "third ranked in the west" stuff where a deserving eastern team gets shafted because their conference is stronger (and vice versa.)

Posted by: equus | May 7, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

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