The soccer news starts with MLS floating a new number for the all-in approach to MLS expansion. It's not just the expansion fee. It's making sure a new club can afford the stadium and whatever else is necessary to get a team up and running. According to MLS commissioner Don Garber in an interview with ESPN's Jeff Carlisle, the full cost for the next two expansion teams is "between $550 million and $650 million in investment."
Garber used that number to explain why the proposed expansion to Sacramento and St Louis remains ongoing, but it's also a signal to the other expansion candidates. The price point continues to rise along with the expectations.
Yahoo Sports' Doug McIntyre also talked to commissioner Garber who said that in 20 years he has, "no doubt that we will be one of the top leagues in the world on the competitive side and also in business metrics. If you look at the amount of energy that the rest of the football world is placing on our market, there’s no doubt that we just need to continue to build strong fan bases, continue to invest in player development and our facilities. And we need to continue to grow the league throughout North America."
Take that as intended and it's a reminder that MLS is under no obligation to halt expansion at any given number. Though the old "league of choice" and world class by some point in the next decade talking points are no longer said as loudly, it's still part of the point. There are only so many world class players. For a league the size of MLS, eventually they'll need some of them in their prime.
MLS announced earlier this year that they're a buying and selling league fully engaged in the international transfer market and wanting solidarity compensation for player development. Some saw that as a half step for the league's ambitions. Selling leagues in Europe slot in underneath the major leagues who regularly raid those second-tier leagues for talent. In the 1980s, the Dutch Eredivisie and the Belgian Pro League were two of the best in Europe. In that pre-freedom of movement era, it was much easier for clubs to keep their stars. After the Bosman ruling, European soccer changed quickly and the current hierarchy was easy to predict.
As a single-entity with strict salary controls and no competition between clubs for players, MLS eventually will have to compete with European super clubs for talent. Short a massive collapse of the professional European club system along with the transfer system, that's the only way to compete without redefining what "one of the top leagues in the world on the competitive side" means. It also means paying attention to the rest of the world with China and Gulf leagues showing that they will pay for players.
What that broader interplay means for putting an MLS expansion team in another American city is a good question. Soccer is unique in North American sports with better leagues in other countries. The ever increasing cost for an MLS team is happening with teams already in the bigger markets. If MLS ever competes for players with the super clubs of Europe and now elsewhere, that "$550 million and $650 million in investment" could be what it costs to buy and pay a competitive roster.
Also in the soccer news, Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke will miss three MLS games, three Leagues Cup games, and pay a $25k fine after taking issue with the officials during the Leagues Cup loss to Tigres. Real Salt Lake is adding to the punishment by "suspending Coach Petke from all club activity for two weeks, without pay. In addition, he will be required to attend anger management courses to help remedy what has been a recurring issue and he will be required to issue written apologies to both the league and the individual referees."
MLSsoccer's Charles Boehm talks to DC United forward and MLS All-Star Wayne Rooney. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tannenwald interviews Union backup goalkeeper Joe Bendik about MLS All-Star Andre Blake.
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