MLS Commissioner Don Garber addresses possible league changes and improving officiating
The MLS board of governors discussed the league's scheduling and playoff formats Saturday, but changes next season are "more than likely [going to be] a tweak to our system but not any major changes," Commissioner Don Garber said.
One aspect that he insisted will be phased out is the system that sends clubs from one conference to compete in the other conference's playoff bracket. This year, for example, the Colorado Rapids and San Jose Earthquakes finished fifth and sixth respectively in the Western Conference and played in the Eastern playoffs. Both advanced to the Eastern final.
Garber also said that a single table is not being considered. "We still believe in" conferences, he said, citing the opportunity for "special moments," such as a first-place finish in the regular season and a conference playoff title.
Garber also suggested that the league will not have a balanced regular season schedule next year, in which each of the 18 clubs would play one another at home and away. The reason, he explained, was league expansion in 2012 and beyond. With 19, and then 20, teams, a balanced schedule would not be possible because the number of matches that each club plays will remain the same.
Down the road, however, the league anticipates significant changes to its competition formats.
"While we have been evolving over the last number of years, there is going to be major evolution when we have 19 or 20 teams," Garber said. "When that evolution happens, we're looking at more of a revolution than an evolution."
For Garber's thoughts on officiating.....
Garber also addressed questions about officiating, saying that one of his greatest frustrations is that "I can't decide who to hire and who to fire" because the officials are trained and assigned by the U.S. Soccer Federation.
"It's the beauty of the game, but it's not the beautiful part of the game. I get it ... but it's frustrating to run a league and you don't have a person working for you."
He sounded a warning about next year, when the addition of two expansion clubs will add 68 more games and put a strain on the officiating pool. He also cited international competitions held in the United States next year that will further deplete the group.
"We're not going to have enough officials," Garber said. "So we're going to have to figure out where we get them from. I don't know whether it will be international officials. I don't know where they're coming from. We have a perfect storm coming next year."
MLS and the USSF are working together "to make [the quality of officiating] better," he added. "We are talking about setting up an officiating center and having a full staff person in the league office that would be closer to us in analyzing games. ... We're spending more money on training. ... The USSF is really focused on making it better."
Speaking in general about the officating, Garber said: "It's not as bad as people think it is. [Some] would say that the quality of officials has grown faster than the quality of play. ... The vast majority of the controversial calls -- more than 50 percent, more than 60 percent -- are not bad calls."
To clarify, Garber is talking about more than 50-60 percent of "controversial calls", not all calls.
| November 20, 2010; 7:07 PM ET
Categories: MLS | Tags: MLS
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